I had just walked into the house. It was late. 11:30PM late. My girlfriend and I had marched for hours with thousands of New Yorkers in support of the family in Ferguson. I was proud of my city. Proud of my people for crying out-loud about the injustice that was the previous night’s non-indictment announcement for the cop who shot the unarmed teenager on August 9th. I had just put on my pajamas, sat down to check my email once last time before I laid my head on my pillow, when the phone rang. The voice on the other end was a friend who works for Parks & Crump, the law firm that represents the family of the deceased, asking me for some help. I go back with Attorney Crump and Attorney Parks since the beginning of the Trayvon tragedy…I consider them family, so when they need something, they know they can call at any hour of the day (regardless if I had a 7AM flight the next day or not). Within minutes, I was back in my car, driving into Manhattan, while looking for a restaurant whose kitchen was still open.
Mike Brown‘s mother, Lesley, had just arrived in NYC. The last time we had seen her was the night before outside the Ferguson police department, in agony, after the state had let her down once again. The hotel restaurant was closed and she didn’t know where to get a bite…and it was her first time in NYC, so she was a little nervous to go out alone. We met in the lobby. She was accompanied on her trip by her cousin, and the three of us took off down the street to fill our stomachs.
I had never met Lesley. We had spoken a few times during the days after her son was left in the street for four and a half hours after being shot six times by a police officer, but that was back in August and much had happened since then. The life and times of her son had been scrutinized by the press. Leaks had been delivered to media friends of the prosecutor. Nasty comments spread far and wide on the social networks, while millions of people around the world had sent well-wishes. Her face had been on the cover of every major international newspaper. No one could prepare her for this. And certainly this was not the reason she wanted to come to New York City for the first time.
We sat for hours. Until 2:30 in the morning, we ate and drank, laughed and cried, smiled and stood still, told stories about her son and mine. By the end of the night…or by this time, it is was the early morning, she said something to me that I will never forget. After telling her a story about my son, Mateo Ali, and his obsession with Dora The Explorer, something that felt so trivial, she sat quiet for a few minutes. With tears in her eyes, she grabbed my hand tight and quietly whispered, “no one knows our children like we do.” Both of our eyes watering, we waited for the check in silence, the void of noise speaking more than all of the words we had spoken since we first met in the hotel lobby. We walked back through the cold, New York City streets, embraced upon my departure and promised to stay in touch. She smiled and took a deep breath, a culmination of the past three hours together. That is all I could have hoped for. A deep breath. The smile was extra.
I learned a lot from Lesley that night. A lot about resilience. A lot about pride. A lot about love. What a beautiful, kind, compassionate woman she is. Her journey towards justice for her son will be a life-long mission, and many of us will hop on and hop off. Some of us will remain by her side to the very end. But, in the immediate. In this moment. At this time. As you gather with your families across the country to give thanks, please continue to send her your prayers. She needs all that we can give. And if you can give a little bit more, never stop beating the drum for justice for Mike Brown.
Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. He is on the Board of Directors of The Trayvon Martin Foundation. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty