Missouri

Michael Brown's mother, Lezley McSpadden, contemplating run for Ferguson City Council

In this 2016 photo Lezley McSpadden was interviewed about her son, Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
In this 2016 photo Lezley McSpadden was interviewed about her son, Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Associated Press

The setting was apt, a panel discussion at Harvard University this week titled "The Movement for Black Lives: Justice for Michael Brown 4 Years Later."

Brown's mother, Lezley McSpadden, sat on the panel and shared some news: She might be running for office. As her attorney noted, she would be "supervising the same police department that killed Michael Brown."

On Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed 18-year-old Brown on a city street, igniting days of unrest, a national discussion about police violence and inspiring the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.

Since his death, McSpadden finished her high school diploma through an adult eduction program, graduating with her daughter, Deja Brown, from Jennings (Mo.) Senior High School last May.

She's written a book, "Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown," in which she wrote of getting pregnant with Michael when she was 16 and dropping out of high school to support her baby, nicknamed "Mike Mike."

"Since Brown’s death, McSpadden has become a protester against police brutality and a quasi-celebrity who appeared in Beyoncé’s 'Lemonade' video, looking regal on a throne, holding a picture of her son," wrote The New Yorker in July 2016.

"McSpadden met Beyoncé at Prince’s 'Rally 4 Peace' benefit concert, in Baltimore. She's ambivalent about the spotlight, and has felt hesitant to even go out to the mailbox without having her hair done, fearing public scrutiny.'"

And yet, she's thinking about grabbing an even bigger spotlight.

She told the Harvard audience she plans to run for a spot on the city council in Ferguson.

“We have to get behind people who look like us and get them in these elected seats so that they can really do what’s right by the community, and I’m going to start with me by running for Ferguson City Council," she said, according to Mother Jones.

People applauded. Some chanted "Run, Lezley, run."

"There are several people back home that are willing to help me get that going and make sure that I'm treated right," she said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported she was urged to publicly mention her intention by family attorney Benjamin Crump, who was on the panel with McSpadden and filmmaker Jason Pollock who made the documentary, "Stranger Fruit," about Brown's death.

"What a legacy that would be — elected to the City Council and supervising the same police department that killed Michael Brown," Crump said.

In predominantly black Ferguson, the city council and police department were predominantly white when Brown was killed. In April 2015, the first city election after his death, residents elected two black candidates to the six-member council, according to Mother Jones.

McSpadden is not the only mother of a shooting victim propelled into politics. Lucy McBath is running for Congress in her home state of Georgia. In 2012 her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed at a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., by a white man.

"We think of ourselves in different stages of life using many different adjectives. I have been a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend," McBath wrote in Vanity Fair this month. "Candidate for Congress was never really part of the lexicon.

"Years ago, as a flight attendant with Delta Air Lines, my goals in life were much like anyone else’s in America: to be a good mother, to teach my son to be a compassionate man who would share his worth with the world, and perhaps to walk him down the aisle on his wedding day.

"Those simple dreams ended the day after Thanksgiving of 2012. My son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed while sitting in the back seat of a friend’s car at a gas station, listening to music. The man who killed my son opened fire on four unarmed teenagers because he said the music was too loud."

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon spoke with The Kansas City Star's editorial board in July 2015 on a wide range of topics. Here's what he had to say about Ferguson, one year after the riots.

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