by Richard B. Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
(FinalCall.com) – Anthony Shahid has a 30-year history in the St. Louis-area and for the last six months the activist has been focused on the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., and demands for justice in a struggle that has had a global impact. The outspoken Muslim has become a friend and supporter of Michael Brown, Sr., and has stood with the mother, Lesley McSpadden, and the family since the first day the 18-year-old was killed and lay in the street in Ferguson, Mo.
His face and garb may be familiar whether wearing chains or a KKK-style robe, carrying whips or holding stuffed dogs to dramatize deadly serious points and concerns—even if his name is unfamiliar. He also started the chant, “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” that has captivated America and other countries and illustrates an unarmed Brown being shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson in the eyes of many.
The struggle and the fight isn’t over, said Mr. Shahid, 59, in a telephone interview, where he shared memories of the struggle from day one, talked about all those who were there from the beginning and his unshakable respect and regard for young people. He doesn’t take credit for everything, he isn’t a one-man show and he doesn’t seek praise. What he wants is justice for Black people, a cause that has fueled his life and made him unpopular with many of the powerful but loved by many of those who suffer.
If the young people had not done what was done, if a convenience store had not been burned, if the young people had not faced off with the racist police, this would have been forgotten, he stressed. Young people have been there from the beginning, are tired of injustice and tired of being shot down like dogs, Mr. Shahid said. He relates fully to their anger and their outrage and wants to make sure they remain engaged and at the forefront of the struggle. He has directly confronted armed officers and led protests and marchers, facing riot gear and inhaling tear gas.
He plans to go to Selma the weekend of March 7 with young people as part of what he calls the “Selma to Ferguson struggle.” Fifty years ago Blacks had to fight for voting rights and today voting rights are under assault and 50 years ago the killing of Jimmy Lee Jackson ignited a movement and the killing of Mike Brown, Jr., ignited a movement, he said. There is also tension between older leaders today and young people who are demanding change now and Blacks have the potential to vote out Whites in power April 7 in Ferguson, Mo., Mr. Shahid added.
Then the weekend of March 20-21, there are plans for mass demonstrations in the St. Louis area, in Clayton, Mo., the seat of government and power on March 20 and in Ferguson, Mo., on March 21, he said. The movement isn’t over, none of our demands—which included the indictment of Off. Wilson, removal of county prosecutor Bob McCullough and ouster of Ferguson’s mayor and police chief, have happened, Mr. Shahid said.
He vividly remembers the day Ferguson resident David Royal called him about the shooting of young Brown. He had already heard about problems in the St. Louis suburb and was trying to set up a meeting about concerns over discrimination, 53 police officers and only three Blacks, and targeting of Blacks with traffic stops. He ended up on the scene watching a grieving mother, pained residents, angry youth, heavily armed officers and a phalanx of snarling police dogs. The fight was on from there and Anthony Shahid is not known for backing down from a fight, he is known for going straight at the opposition.
Looking into the faces of officers, some with hands on their guns, he told the crowd to put their hands in the air, just as Michael Brown did, and chanted, “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot! Don’t shoot us in the back!”
“Our people were crazy mad knowing we have been being killed for a century, this just didn’t start happening,” he said. “If those young people had not erupted like a volcano, nobody would have known about Ferguson because it would have been silenced by now.” He wants masses of young people to come back for the March protest to signal the fight isn’t over.