FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2014
Contact: Shawna Stevens, Chief of Staff, firstname.lastname@example.org, (562) 570-6137
Open Letter to the Youth of Ferguson: Michael Brown Could Have Been a Councilmember
Long Beach Councilmember and St. Louis native issues statement to the community and Ferguson youth
At kitchen tables, in classrooms and from pulpits all over the country, many of us are sharing our grief and devastation over the tragic death of Michael Brown. This young man was 18 years of age and was shot and killed by police as he walked down the street to visit his grandmother. His family is stunned with grief, and an entire nation is left to cope with yet another unjustifiable death of an unarmed Black teenager.
As the youngest member of the Long Beach City Council, the 36th largest city in the nation, almost 3 thousand miles away from the Ferguson protests, I can‘t help but to think about the young men in my own community,
and how they might be affected by such a tragedy.
How would the youth from my community feel if one of their own, who recently graduated high school, were unnecessarily slain in broad daylight by a law enforcement officer while walking to his grandmother’s house?
Would they feel hopeless or perhaps confused? If they were angry or afraid, would it be justified? Should any young person expect to stare down the barrel of a gun at some point in their life?
In many ways the African American youth of Ferguson are a representation of oppressed and downtrodden youth across America. Therefore these questions are not only fair, but necessary to ask.
Many of my friends and constituents here in Long Beach may not know, but I grew up just 5 miles away from the Canfield Green Apartments, in Ferguson, Missouri where the Michael Brown tragedy occurred. I spent a significant portion of my childhood in the communities in and around Ferguson, where my siblings and I attended schools like Duschene Elementary School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. If circumstances or conditions were slightly different, I could have been a victim of gun violence, and Michael Brown could have become a City Councilmember of a major American city.
As a soon-to-be father, this plea is especially personal. My daughter should feel safe when she walks down the street to visit her grandmother, to buy a pack of Skittles from the corner store, or just to enjoy being a kid in the summertime.
I want every young African American man in Ferguson to know this: despite the daily and systemic injustices you face, your future is limitless. You have people in your family, your community and at all corners of the country who want nothing more than to protect you and help you succeed. You are our future, and it’s our honor to invest in you.
Though it might be difficult, I encourage you to pursue constructive ways to resist those individuals and institutions that may seek to suppress your dreams and diminish your potential. Let’s stand together for change. Let’s organize. If Michael Brown himself will never get to City Hall, let’s build a class of leaders who will honor his legacy. You are the future of your community, and your future is bright!
Rex Richardson, 30
St. Louis Native
City of Long Beach Councilmember, 9th District