On August 9, 2014, Black 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a White Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. The killing of the beloved teenager—and the four hours in which his bleeding body remained on Canfield Drive–sparked an uprising, a militarized police response and sustained political organizing that altered the course of U.S. history. But before Brown became a political symbol, he was just Mike-Mike. Here, Michael Brown Sr. reflects on what happened after the news cameras left.
At this point, I have found a little bit of peace. I’m not as angry as I was five years ago. But every day is different. The family is still trying to move forward. Mike Brown Jr.’s nine siblings are still hurting and have questions. They were all younger than him, and the last thing that they remember is that their brother was taken away from them in the manner that he was. So I’m just trying to keep those good memories going on with them. I’m just loving on the family.
People may have tried to dehumanize Mike Jr. But he was human, and he definitely had people that loved him on both sides of the family. He [was] a big brother. Someone’s son. Someone’s grandson. He wanted to be a rapper. He liked his computer and played online video games with other people around the world. He had just started driving, and he was really into girls at that point. He was engaging with life and being an average teenager.
Mike Jr. was also funny. A few months before he died, he told me that he had a baby on the way and hung up the phone on me. I was calling and calling him back, but he wouldn’t answer. Then he called me later on that evening. And I was like, “We didn’t finish what we were talking about!” He’s like, “What?” And I said, “You said you had a baby on the way!” And he said, “Ah, man, you forgot today was April Fool’s Day?” Yeah, he got me good.
Mike loved people. And a lot of the work that we’re doing right now at the Michael Brown Chosen for Change Foundation grew out of things that he and I were talking about before he passed. He had said that the world was going to know his name. But we never knew that he was going to leave like that.
I currently run a program under the umbrella of the foundation called Chosen Fathers. It’s for fathers who have lost children to police violence. A lot of people think that the father is supposed to just take it and take it—to take all the pain like it doesn’t hurt. People reach out to mothers when these tragedies happen and think that the fathers are supposed to just get over it. But we hurt too.
Some folks once said that once the cameras leave, the people leave. But people are still protesting for Mike Brown and other families that have suffered similar loss. I want to thank everyone that showed love to the family and stood up for what they believed in. It’s never over.