Click to go to the Subscriber Log In Page
Go to menu with buttons for all pages on BC
Click here to go to the Home Page
Est. April 5, 2002
March 10, 2016 - Issue 644

A Different Kind of Club
Grieving Fathers
Bond for Justice


"What has evolved over the last few years
is the creation of these exclusive
clubs—formations of families who have lost
children, mainly to police terrorism."

“If you want to hear the truth, you must let the suffering speak.”
This was the quote by Cornel West that Cephus Johnson led off with at the “Testimonies of Love, Loss and Legacy” last weekend. Cephus, affectionately known as Uncle Bobby, is the uncle of Oscar Grant who was murdered by an Oakland transit cop in 2009. I met him and wife Beatrice in Oakland at my book signing event for “Ferguson is America.”
During his potent testimony, Johnson went on to say that it is the responsibility of the living to seek justice for the dead because they can no longer speak for themselves. He sees the mission of their family foundations is to seek justice for those who have been wrongfully murdered.
Johnson was in St. Louis to represent one of those foundations, Love not Blood, at a special event sponsored by Eden Social Justice Council and The Michael Brown Chosen for Change Foundation. The event featured a panel of fathers from around the country who have lost their children to violence. It was part of a weekend that included a retreat for the grieving fathers. Some spoke of enduring recent birthdays of their child and smacked with the reality that there would be no more birthdays.
The testimonies were riveting and emotional. They were especially powerful coming from black men who often get characterized by the mainstream media as absent or indifferent towards their children. The fathers got a few minutes at the program to humanize their loved one.

The Oscar Grant story was made into a movie. “Fruitvale Station” built his life of struggle around his senseless murder by BART cop Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle shot Grant in the back and he laid hand-cuffed and unarmed on the station platform. As Uncle Bobby told us, Oscar had 600 pounds of police on his 150-lb frame. The world had already born witness to the shooting via video but we didn’t know Grant. The well-written script and the phenomenal acting of Michael B. Jordan drew the viewing audience into smack into Grant’s life. I know I felt like I personally new Oscar after I saw the movie (twice). And not only did I know Oscar, I know many Oscar-types who are potential victims of police or community violence.
What the testimonies of these fathers did in the chapel of Eden Theological Seminary was to do just that—to project the lives of real children and their unspeakable loss as a parent. Black families can feel pain too.

Listening to the testimonies, I couldn’t help but think back to the murder of Mike Brown Jr. Mike was instantly dehumanized by the mainstream media resulting in a flood of online racist, hurtful comments—Mike was a big, black, scary thug. Like other victims, Mike had family and friends, he had fears and dreams. He was a kid, he was human.

What has evolved over the last few years is the creation of these exclusive clubs—formations of families who have lost children, mainly to police terrorism. Just a week ago, Love not Blood had sponsored a similar event for mothers. The Circle of Mothers told their stories and gave one another the support needed to channel their grief into the fight for justice.

Uncle Bobby called me from the St. Louis airport before he left to return home. He reported that it was a spectacular weekend. The fathers had bonded; he felt renewed and ready for the next battle.

This is an exclusive club that most of us don’t want membership in. What is inspiring to me is these families are not wallowing in self-pity and despair. They are now drum majors for justice and part of the growing Black Lives Matter movement. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle.  Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog jamalarogers.comContact Ms. Rogers and BC.




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers