ST. LOUIS — It took a village to bury Michael Brown.
It took more than the 600 members of Brown’s family who gathered inside the jam-packed Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. It took more than the 2,500 black folks who filled the sanctuary. It took more than the hundreds of mourners who stood outside the church under a sweltering sun because there was no room in the building.
The black community in St. Louis said goodbye to one its own Monday. And although most of the mourners didn’t know Michael Brown, had never seen Michael Brown, and never spoke a word to Michael Brown, they came to pay their final respects because of how Michael Brown died. He was unarmed, shot six times on Aug. 9 by Darren Wilson, a white police officer from Ferguson, Missouri, and left lying facedown on dirty pavement for four hours.
As I sat inside the sanctuary, I watched the slow stream of mourners pack the pews. Some came to Friendly Temple because they felt sympathy for black parents who had to bury their son; some came because they are still angry about the shooting; others came because Michael Brown’s name has become synonymous with a national rallying call for justice.
Brown, 18, was killed in what could be called the war against young Black men – the escalating confrontations between police and African-American males, a fierce war that is often played out on our nation’s streets.
It’s a devastating cycle—and young black men in America are being targeted while driving, targeted while walking, targeted just for being. In Ferguson, tensions were high even before Brown’s death as the city is 67 percent black, but only three of its 53 police officers are black.
“We are required to leave here today and change things,” Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, told a cheering audience. “There’ve been other times in history that became seminal moments. This is one of those moments.”
“We’re required in his name to change this country,” Sharpton said. “Justice is going to come! Justice is going to come! Justice is going to come!”