Surrounded by family, supporters and media, Michael Brown Sr. laid down a teddy bear on the middle of Canfield Dr. Saturday morning before leading the crowd on a 4.8 mile march from Ferguson to Normandy High School. Sunday marks a year since his son, Michael Brown Jr., was shot and killed by then Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
The length of the march was chosen as a reference to the four and a half hours Brown’s body lay on Canfield Dr. on August 9, 2014.
Rap music written in honor of Brown wafted from cars leading the parade, providing a musical counterpoint to the chants shouted through megaphones.
Along the way police officers passed out water bottles to combat the heat.
Over the past year Brown Sr. has started a charity called Chosen for Change and become a household name. But he told reporters Saturday that nothing has really changed for him since his son died.
“Everyone say my son didn’t die in vain. Me personally it’s a loss but there was a lot of good that came out of (it),” Brown Sr. said, adding that the attention given to his son’s death opened doors for other families who had lost a relative at the hands of police.
Several of those families joined Brown Sr. on the march.
Walking through the street with his four children, Monterio Pattman of St. Louis said things have gotten worse since Michael Brown was shot last year.
“Murders haven’t stopped. We’re more together as a people but we’re still dying,” Pattman said. “We need to screen our police better in the hiring process. We need more resources in our community.”
Zechariah Williams agreed with Pattman that things have gotten worse.
“It’s just sad to see stuff going on and don’t nobody really care but the people that’s right here in the neighborhood,” said Williams. “A lot of people over the world make it as if it’s just about (Michael Brown). It’s not just about him. It’s about every other black person who died under the cause of racist white cops. I feel like it’s time for people to stand up.”
Williams said police officers need to stop stereotyping black people as criminals in order for there to be real change.
But Normandy alumna Kenisha Rhone is more positive. Rhone said she went to high school with Brown Sr. and returned to St. Louis to support her classmate this weekend.
“It’s like night and day (this year compared to last year),” Rhone said. “The tension’s always been in the areas that exploded but people are making a concerted and direct effort to heal the city. It’s not been lip service this time around. People are actually forming coalitions and building bridges through communities that have not happened in the past with sincere effort. So I think a lot of the change that we’ve wanted to see for many years is now actually starting to come to fruition.”
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.