While mourners paid their last respects to Andrew Brown Jr., we must ask why our demands for justice only are heard after our people have been killed.
May 3 marked the funeral gathering of the family of Andrew Brown Jr. at the Fountain of Life church in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. People gathered around their timelines and watched the news to get up-to-the-minute updates about the wake. But while mourners remembered the 42-year-old father and grandfather as “a very good man,” the demands for justice seem to echo a familiar cry that comes after police violence against Black people.
Lined up outside, the family wore shirts that read “Long Live Drew” and featured Brown’s picture, while the back of the shirts read, “Gone but never forgotten.” It is a sight that we’ve seen ad nauseum with too many of our Black and brown community members. From Trayvon Martin to Sandra Bland to Atatiana Jefferson to Philando Castile to Breonna Taylor, we continue to show up and show out for the ones we love who were never threats to those wearing a badge. But why must we continue to die and be buried in order for “justice” to prevail?
It’s a sight almost seen on repeat at this point, growing into a weekly/monthly occurrence: children holding an adult’s hand, wearing “RIP” on the front with a picture of a loved on—in this case Andrew Brown Jr.—and parishioners all solemn, mourning in unison. Brown’s closed metallic casket was in front of the stage inside the church, and all I could think about is why are we even in this situation to begin with. “It’s a terrible way that we had to be together like this,” Khalil Ferebee, the eldest son of Andrew Brown Jr. said. “But, you know, seeing everybody, I’m glad we’re together like this right now.”
As a rabble-rouser and fellow member of the Black community, it’s soundbites like this that make people like Nancy Pelosi believe that these police-sanctioned murders are “sacrifices” meant as steps to progress that will eventually liberate us from the oppressive and murderous intentions of the state and federal government. The Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump, standing alongside attorneys Bakari Sellers and Harry Daniels at the funeral, continued to reiterate how unjustifiable and unwarranted Andrew Brown Jr.’s death was, while they connected it to the broader issue of police violence against Black people. “It was literally hours after the guilty verdict was announced when I received a call from the family about Andrew Brown Jr.’s death,” Crump said, while speaking at the funeral.
“We could barely celebrate. We thought that what George Floyd represented [meant that] we were going to stop these unjustified killings of Black men.”
When the guilty verdict was announced during the Derek Chauvin trial, there wasn’t anything to celebrate really. The man should’ve been able to come home to his family in one piece. But whether you’ve been taken in on a low-level drug charge or a pretextual traffic stop, the road to change in this country should not mean I have to bury my loved ones to do so. “He would’ve loved this,” Khalil shared later on during the eulogy. “I just wish he was here with us. As much as I’m going to wish and wish, wish all day, it’s not going to happen.” And according to Judge Jeffrey Foster, the Brown family viewing the footage that led to Andrew Brown Jr.’s death is not going to happen either—that is until an internal investigation is complete.
It shouldn’t be up to us to plead for justice. A high Black body count shouldn’t be the reason there needs to be change to this corrupt system known as America.
Members of the families of George Floyd and Eric Garner attended Brown’s memorial, and the families of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin have been on the ground as support during the Derek Chauvin trial. The country recently pressed pause on an entire Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout because of a complication with a risk of 1 in 1 million, but for Black people our public health crisis is the police and racism, where the risk is 1 in 1,000.
Last week, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten identified the deputies who fired their weapons at Andrew Brown Jr. as Investigator Daniel Meads, Deputy Robert Morgan and Corporal Aaron Lewellyn, who all remain on administrative leave, and if found guilty will breathe from behind a jail cell. “Because Andrew cannot make the plea for justice, it is up to us to make the plea for justice,” Crump said.
Where is our pause?
Kevin L. Clark is an editor and screenwriter who covers the intersections of music, pop culture and social justice. Follow him @KevitoClark.