There is a movie out titled Get On Up and it depicts the life of iconic music legend James Brown.
One of his greatest hits, “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” was a socially conscious tune that made Black people like me feel good about ourselves. It came at a time in the ’60s when race relations were at a low point in America. I was in my developing years then so I did connect with the song when I heard it.
It is quite ironic and almost eerie that the 18-year-old African-American male shot to death recently by police officer Darren Wilson in the controversial incident in Ferguson, Missouri, has the last name of Brown. I have often said that when a young African-American male leaves home it is uncertain whether he will return home. Young Michael Brown did not.
Accounts of what happened are still being debated as they are investigated.
Many questions remain. Were Brown’s hands in the air as a sign of surrender when he was shot? Did he assault the police officer? It has been suggested that the police officer feared for his life, yet Brown was unarmed according to reports.
The Ferguson police force has 53 officers and three of the officers are African-American. Yes, three, in a city with a population that is 67 percent African-American.
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson says he has been trying to increase diversity since he has been there. Nearby St. Louis also has a pretty significant African-American population for possible police recruits. Is the community of Ferguson really advertising for Black officers and does it have a plan?
Sometimes when bad things happen in communities the fallback answer is what we are “trying” to do.
An interesting account of racial tensions between the police and the community in Ferguson comes from a young African-American male, Terrell Marshall. He told USA TODAY that he was walking home last month and police stopped him. They emptied his luggage and searched him. He chalked it up to routine treatment. Maybe that happens a lot to young Black men. I call it guilty until proven innocent. Maybe looking young, Black and male makes you look guilty.
I am growing increasingly sad of seeing Black boys dying by their own hands or by the hands of someone else. Either way, mothers still cry, funerals are still held and communities still mourn.
The community of Ferguson is now protesting what many see as a senseless and tragic death. Why do you have to shoot a young man six times? Do you really want to make sure that he is really injured and possibly dead? I don’t know and won’t hazard a guess.
Members of the clergy across the nation are working to stop the violence. While I believe in diversity efforts and I am a champion of them, our hearts and minds must also change.
Prayer does change things. We have tried everything else.
Dr. James Ewers is the president emeritus of The Teen Mentoring Committee in Ohio, a motivational speaker and a workshop leader. He served as a vice president and admissions director at several colleges and universities before retiring in 2012. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.