Memphians Respond to Events in Ferguson, MO

Posted on September 30, 2014


By Mary Crowell

Tears roll down cheeks and hands rise to God, to innocence. Tempers flare, conversation ensues, memories spark, and a community mourns.

Words and images of last month’s events in Ferguson, MO spread like spilled milk across the table of our nation, sparking outrage, protests, violence, and debate within our media and around our dinner tables.

Memphis and the community are certainly not immune to the activism, emotion, and outrage that sprung from that August day when Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown. This event raised the nation’s attention, enticed confusion, and sparked the distrust of our policing system, all of which have impacted the city of Memphis itself. Organizations such as Memphis United and Mid-South Peace responded to the event in Ferguson, scheduling demonstrations, creating videos to demand for police accountability, and attending vigils.

Memphian response has even developed among city officials. U.S. Representative Steve Cohen of Memphis signed a letter in August in response to the events in Ferguson, MO calling for a hearing.

As a city with a deeply rooted history in racial strife, Memphis also demonstrates a history of solidarity and resilience. Specific events included a National Moment of Silence Rally in the Health Science Park and town hall meetings on the issue of police accountability hosted by Memphis United. Others chose to hold rallies along Poplar including the “#HandsUpMemphis” hashtag. Local videographer and photographer Kevin Gary created a film interviewing individual protestors in Memphis and reminding viewers of the many who die at the hands of police every year, especially those who are never mentioned in the media. These outlets, among others, provide an guage of the degree with which individuals in the Memphis community have chosen to respond to the death of Mike Brown.

However, not all Memphians are apt to protest for Mike Brown. At the prospect of crowds taking to the streets to demonstrate in the past couple of weeks, columnist Les Smith recently reprimanded the movements of Memphis saying, “ It’s blasphemous to focus on a tragedy 300 miles away when we should be concentrating on the atrocities within our own city”. Bringing attention back to Memphis’ own community, Smith highlights the energy needed to combat such topics as the disarray of our city’s education system.

Clearly, the events in Ferguson influence Memphians in every part of the city and from all different backgrounds, inciting many to act and respond. Whether it be through waving signs along Poplar Ave., attending strategic planning meetings, or reflecting on the current state of affairs within our own city, Memphians have sparked movement within the Memphis community, challenging its people to reflect on the responsibility that they hold when such acts of violence occur nationally or here at home.

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