2 Ferguson Protesters Prove Why Black Women Protesters Need Support

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” – Assata Shakur

The quote became a regular prayer of sorts for all of us in St. Louis in those chaotic weeks after Michael Brown was killed. As the nights dragged on, and the weather changed (though the police tactics didn’t), a number of notable protesters began to stand out of the crowd, for various reasons—two of whom were Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton. Earlier this week, Ferrell and Templeton appeared in court for a pending case regarding a direct action that occurred in 2015. They found out that the prosecutor is pushing for jail time for both of them.

The direct action in question was part of a weekend of actions meant to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. Monday, August 10th, 2015 was littered with arrest-able direct actions all over the city of St. Louis, organized and carried out by protesters refusing to let the city forget what had begun a year ago—and really, decades long before that. One action in particular, led by Ferrell, Templeton and others, blocked all 8 lanes of Interstate Highway 70, chosen specifically for its symbolic (and literal) representation of white flight.

In the end, I-70 was entirely shut down in both directions. The shut-down lasted for an impressive amount of time all things considered. A single driver in an SUV tested the line, inched forward and then eventually sped through a mass of protesters—nearly running over several. Over 60 protesters, legal observers, street medics and others were arrested. Later we learned that Ferrell and Templeton had both been charged with a series of misdemeanors, in addition to a single felony for Ferrell.

Prosecutor Bob McCulloch—yes, the same Bob McCulloch who basically handed the grand jury a non-indictment in regards to the Darren Wilson case and has been involved in controversy for decades—is the key force pushing for jail time for both Ferrell and Templeton, unsurprisingly. And the driver who—while operating a roughly 4- or 5-ton machine—sped through a crowd of people, any of whom could’ve quite easily gotten caught undertow, perhaps dragging a number of people beneath her wheels—was obviously charged with nothing.

*Waits while someone inserts some played out garbage about citizens breaking the law and “what did you think would happen?” and “you’re hurting your cause by inconveniencing people who didn’t do anything to you” and something else about people needing to get home after work and then also an out-of-context Dr. King quote for good measure*

Still with me? Okay. Moving on.

Now, a few months shy of the 2-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, I find myself wondering what loving each other and supporting each other actually looks like in this context. Will we show up here? Now? For two of the movement’s most recognizable young black queer leaders? Can we imagine what that our mantra looks like in action?

It’s worth noting that the momentum that erupted in St. Louis was sustained and organized by a veritable village of protesters and friends and strangers who will likely never be featured in national magazines, much less interviewed for any historical record. And this isn’t to diminish the obvious bravery and leadership that Ferrell and Templeton have displayed time and time again in the face of aggression from both the state and their supposed (sexist and/or homophobic) comrades; it just contextualizes it. The point is: It has taken and will continue to take a village. The point is: If we don’t watch each other’s back, front and side, who else will? The point is: Loving and supporting each other is a thing we’re still learning how to do, though we’ve screamed it with gas-mask-clad riot cops glaring at our faces.

I’ve written before about the importance of Black women showing up for each other, and now I’m wondering if the rest of the larger movement community will show up for Brittany and Alexis as well. I’m sick of wondering if Black women will be the only people to show up for other Black women. If the moment has arrived for us to organize against trumped up charges, and resist the political imprisonment of our own—will we? I haven’t seen any sort of call-to-action yet, and I’m hoping we won’t need one. But I’m also hoping that we’ll all remain vigilant just in case. Hopefully the whole movement village keeps an eye on our comrades in St. Louis, so when the time comes—if the time comes—we’re ready to act.

“Every time a Black Freedom Fighter is murdered or captured, the pigs try to create the impression that they have quashed the movement, destroyed our forces, and put down the Black Revolution…Black revolutionaries do not drop from the moon. We are created by our conditions. Shaped by our oppression. We are being manufactured in droves in the ghetto streets, places like attica, san quentin, bedford hills, leavenworth, and sing sing. They are turning out thousands of us. Many jobless Black veterans and welfare mothers are joining our ranks. [Siblings] from all walks of life, who are tired of suffering passively, make up the BLA. There is, and always will be, until every Black man, woman, [sibling,] and child is free, a Black Liberation Army. The main function of the Black Liberation Army at this time is to create good examples, to struggle for Black freedom, and to prepare for the future. We must defend ourselves and let no one disrespect us. We must gain our liberation by any means necessary.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains[.]”

– Assata Shakur, from Assata: An Autobiography

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Jacqui Germain is a published poet and freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri. Her work is focused on historical and contemporary iterations of black, brown and indigenous resistance. She is also a Callaloo Fellow, and author of "When the Ghosts Come Ashore," published through Button Poetry/Exploding Pinecone Press.

Jacqui Germain is a published poet and freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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