It's a call and response chant started on the streets of Ferguson that has spread across the nation.
"Mike Brown means ..."
"... we got to fight back!"
It rolls off my tongue in a sing-chant cadence, and my hips begin to sway, because I have yelled it as I've marched and rehearsed it in my dreams. It is bitter and sweet. We evoke Mike's name and sway and pledge to fight. I've listened to voices I know and those I don't call and answer in hours of live stream and together in front of court houses and I know, I know in my soul what Mike Brown means.
Mike Brown means ... something more. Something larger than one more young black man shot in his neighborhood.
One year later, Mike Brown means ... something more.
Mike Brown means something bigger than a hashtag, bigger than the beast-like threat imagined by Darren Wilson, and even bigger than the neighborhood teddy bear that his mama and daddy loved.
Mike Brown means the 2016 presidential election includes questions about race for the first time in recent years. Mike Brown means we want to hear the next president of the United States of America say, "Black Lives Matter."
Mike Brown means #BlackLivesMatter is a direct question for candidates at all levels — mayors and governors and senators and congressmen/women. Mike Brown means police brutality and militarization, education, poverty, and mass incarceration are unavoidable local and national political issues. Mike Brown means changing the system from within and dismantling it from without.
Mike Brown means new theology. Mike Brown means the church has had a wake-up call. If or how it will be answered is the question. Mike Brown means from Episcopalians to Disciples of Christ to Lutherans to Methodists to United Church of Christ to the Southern Baptist Convention, so-called followers of Jesus are being watched for how they engage #PropheticGrief in this age. If the body of Christ cannot weep with black mothers burying their children, then it is bankrupt, hollow, and full of dead bones that no church revitalization program can fix.
Mike Brown means a new #StayWoke spirit that is breathing down America's neck. Mike Brown means #ICantBreathe and I can't sleep, so I stay awake, eyes open to the oppression, injustice, and pain of our world.
Mike Brown means a new justice movement with respect for leadership from elders and for youth. Mike Brown means a new justice movement with women and queer people front and center, with intersectionality that will not be set aside in order to win a single issue.
Mike Brown means that until black teenagers are free to walk down the street, to go to pool parties, and listen to loud music without being injured or murdered, none of us is free.
Mike Brown means new networks and relationships and conversations. Mike Brown means nonviolent direct action training for today that includes "how to live-stream" and "how to deal with the effects of teargas." Mike Brown means learning lessons from freedom riders and embracing the technology of now and the future. Mike Brown means we text, we blog, we tweet, we periscope, we vine, we march, we dance, we "die in" on interstates and in malls, we strategize, and we act.
Mike Brown means we #ShutItDown.
Mike Brown means we are determined to recapture our narratives despite "official police reports." You may still be able to kill us, but not without witness, video, hashtags, and voices raised.
Mike Brown means we are all photographers, videographers, and reporters. Twitter is a source for news, and the people have the power to document the world. Mike Brown means I see your "official report" and raise you an uncut YouTube video.
Mike Brown means the curtain has been pulled back on white supremacy. We dismantle it brick by brick with our sweaty, dirty, blistered, and bleeding hands as long as it takes to do so.
Mike Brown means symbols of white supremacy, racism, slavery, war and oppression can no longer be excused by the thin veil of heritage. Mike Brown means no more whitewashed history.
Mike Brown means respectability politics is dead. Hands up, pants down, dreadlocked, tattooed, club on Friday, church on Sunday, educated or not, profanities and clean lips, loud, and angry — we are a rich and complex and beautiful mystery. Mike Brown means you will not ignore me because I don't fit your easy-to-understand, categorize-and-dismiss, respectability mold.
Mike Brown means justice might not come today (that arc of justice is so damn long), might be a long, long way off, but Mike Brown means we will not give up.
Mike Brown means we remember those who have gone before like Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Bayard Rustin, who aren't as shiny and polished as #MLK because this time it is not about a charismatic central leader. Mike Brown means it's time for all of us to show up, stand up, and start saying and doing something.
Mike Brown means we really have to decide if we can love without determining if the other person is worthy first. Mike Brown means we have to live #RevolutionaryLove and not just sing about it.
Mike Brown means the sleeper has awoken. Mike Brown means we are dreaming again — in pictures, paintings, stories, poetry, prose, music, and movement as we imagine a future of freedom and liberation.
Mike Brown means we are tired, weary from tense conversations, emotional conversations, bodies on the ground, voices raised in the street, and fear in our hearts.
Mike Brown means we are hopeful. It means we are #Blackgirlmagic and #BlackLove and #CareFreeBlackWoman and #YoungGiftedandBlack and more determined than ever to love my blackness and yours. Mike Brown means we look death in the face and say, "You can steal my innocence, but you will not steal my substance."*
Mike Brown means Trayvon Martin means Tamir Rice means Sandra Bland means John Crawford means Eric Garner means Christian Taylor and all the other victims of systemic racialized violence, police brutality, and our white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchal culture of fear.
Mike Brown means we've got to fight for all of them. For all of us. Because one more time, until #BlackLivesMatter it is a lie to say #AllLivesMatter.
Mike Brown means one year down and many more to go. You rest in peace, Mike. We got this.
Mike Brown means we who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes.
When I say, "Mike Brown means … we got to fight back!" — this, all of this, is what I mean.
*Lyrical nod to Timshel by Mumford & Sons.