Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from the St. Louis area. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His project The Hero Killer was released on January 2 and was followed up this year by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For the Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get The Hero Killer here.
My body is fatigued as I type this. At this point I have been out in the streets of north county for what feels like an eternity. I am confused and dazed by what has taken place in my city. We have been tear gassed and shot at with rubber bullets in a scene that resembles communist Russia more than an American metropolis. Mike Brown was shot down like a dog in the street, and the Ferguson police refuse to give us answers. His killer remains free, uncharged and shielded by the badge. An overwhelming amount of pressure has been placed on the Ferguson Police Department, yet virtually nothing has happened. We've all watched Brown's parents grieve.
We have protested for justice and encountered a cruelty that resembles the brutality of the Jim Crow demonstrations in the 1960s. President Obama gave an address recently, and even he tacitly endorsed this treatment by referring to us as "violent protesters." I have seen men and women, both black and white, beaten and rounded up like cattle. I've seen officers forcefully push the barrels of assault rifles into the faces of the people they have sworn to protect. A bold, trigger-happy army occupying the streets of Ferguson. This is not a normal police force. This is a completely militarized group of wild cowboys. They lack discipline and have even aimed their guns at the media.
I feel like we are living in a third-world country. Our constitutional rights have been trashed, deleted, burned, abolished and thrown out the window. I have never witnessed such well-coordinated, lawless behavior by law enforcement. I have observed the police tear gassing innocent children. Every entrance of our neighborhood streets were barricaded. When we peacefully pushed back, they turned up the firepower. We are painted in the media as savages.
The truth is: The Ferguson police killed Mike Brown, not us.
I grew up on the same streets that Mike Brown walked. Our stories are very similar. I was once a young, black north-county teen with dreams of getting involved in the music industry. I have often been stopped by the police simply for being black.
I believe Mike Brown died because he was a black male walking in Ferguson at the wrong place and time. Now, his blood has become the motivation for a full-bloom revolution. A new civil-rights movement has been birthed by the constant social-media attention his demise has received.
The happenings of the last two weeks have left me forever changed. I feel as if we, black people, are not considered American whatsoever. The police have demonstrated a willingness to shoot us with reckless abandon. The Ferguson PD has completely lost the trust of the people. Its officers have combined forces with nearly every other police precinct in the city to guard themselves from the displeasure of the community.
We have been shot at for nothing by white men who are twice our age and carrying assault rifles. There are black men twice our age standing on the sidelines, watching it all play out. Armored vehicles which closely resemble tanks have been stationed five minutes from my parents' house. The best political organizers in the world have flown to Missouri to fight this monster. None of us can say we have ever witnessed anything quite like this.
I have never felt this range of emotions before. Out of pure anger and frustration I have cried twice, but now I have gotten to a point where the tears can no longer be summoned. Still, these feelings will reside within me for the rest of my life.
Continue to page two for more.
Missouri is one of the most racially backward places in the United States. The scales of power in my city are completely unbalanced, and the poverty gap is irrefutable. St. Louis County stays afloat through the revenue collected from speeding tickets. These tickets stockpile and turn into warrants. Black people and poor white people are arrested for petty offenses on the regular. Black people in St. Louis have been stomped to the ground like roaches but are expected to simply pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. As a young black man I feel defeated. I feel as if everyone has failed us.
Prior to this I disliked the police, but I wouldn't say I hated them. Now, that has changed. Why? Because I feel as though they hate us. I feel as if they have pushed us into a corner from which we can no longer escape. The adrenaline has worn down, and the mental and emotional lows of this situation are starting to set in. Originally I did not know nor think that the death of Mike Brown would become such a horrifically historical moment. But now my eyes have witnessed armored vehicles and body-armored soldiers in the streets of a suburban community that I once considered home. We are fighting the militarization of our neighborhood. If we fail, then this agenda will spread to other cities with a high minority populations, such as LA, Chicago, Memphis, Baltimore, New York and Detroit.
I knew I would have to write this article because I must do my part to restore my people's dignity in this situation. By "my people," I mean not only my fellow black people, but also my fellow St. Louisans in general. Michael Brown was brutally shot down by a rogue police officer, and now the war cry of his community is being heard around the world. People may seem to be responding in a very careless and self-indulgent manner, but for some this is all they have against a police force that has an endless amount of ammo and support from its fellow officers. Their code of silence prevents them from humanizing Mike Brown and our cries for justice.
I'm doing my best to not overexaggerate this scenario, but you have to understand the feelings associated with seeing your hometown go up in smoke. The infamous QuickTrip which has been showcased in countless pictures by the media was once a staple in my mind when I thought about this area. I remember going there countless times during the summer for drinks and snacks. I never imagined I'd one day see armored vehicles on these grounds. North county has suddenly turned into the Middle East. The sounds of tear gas and assault rifles rapidly ringing my ears as people scream "Hands up; don't shoot" are constantly on repeat in my mind.
Once a person gets over the initial fear of dying or going to jail, there's essentially nothing the police can really do to you. At this moment, many of the young men and women in Mike Brown's age bracket are not afraid to die. We are also not afraid to sleep in a jail cell if it means we are pushing the agenda of justice further.
The Mike Brown Rebellion has begun, and I believe we will win.