Nine Years After Ferguson, Many Wonder if BLM Helped or Hurt African Americans
Published August 8, 2023
By now, virtually everyone has seen the video that surfaced Monday of a race riot on the riverfront in Montgomery, Alabama last weekend. In the event that you have not, however, here is a synopsis: A Black dockworker was arguing with a gaggle of white men about their pontoon boat when suddenly, a shirtless Bubba sucker punches the employee. After the African American man tosses his hat in the air–in what some took as a kind of Black bat signal–it was on. As many as six whites jump the city employee, pummeling him as he lay prostrate on the wooden dock.
Someone on a riverboat can be heard yelling“Y’all help that brother!” A cavalry of Black men rush to the aid of the beseiged dockworkers and the tables quickly turn.
Among those who come to the rescue is a 16-year-old Black teen, later identified as Aaren, who can be seen on the video diving from a riverboat and swimming to the dock to join the fray. As he pulls himself out of the water and up onto the dock, other Blacks cheer him on. “Get up there, young buck!” Black Twitter dubs Aaren Black Aquaman.In a statement released by his family Aaren said he swam to the dock to help a Black man in trouble because that’s “what I was taught to do.”
Statement from a family publicist.
Fortunately it does not appear that anyone was seriously injured in the Montgomery melee, and the videotape clearly shows that whites instigated the brawl. On its most molecular level, however, Black Aquaman and his cohort represent the social cohesion that defined the Montgomery Bus boycott nearly 70 years ago, and the Black freedom struggle here in this white settler Republic.
Ironically, another Black Man was attacked nine years ago this week, but tragically, the results were anything but humorous. On August 14th, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The teenager was unarmed, and his arms raised to the sky in the universal gesture of surrender when the officer, Darren Wilson, opened fire.
As in Montgomery, the African American community rallied around Michael Brown’s body, which was left to rot in the late summer sun for hours in what many believe was an act of intimidation. Thousands of mostly Black protesters poured into the streets of Ferguson, and within days they were joined by organizers from a new racial justice organization, Black Lives Matter.
Ferguson was a springboard for the BLM movement, dramatically raising the organization’s public profile and making Black Lives Matter both a catchprase and a household name.
But while BLM brought star power to Ferguson, it subtracted social cohesion; almost from the moment they landed at the St. Louis airport, the BLM activists clashed with the grassroots activists in Ferguson.