After the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, thousands took to the street in protest of racially biased policing. Darren Seals, an artist and well-respected member of Ferguson’s community was one of the first to do so. On September 6th, more than two years after those demonstrations, Seals was found shot in his car, which had been set ablaze. Some speculate he was killed for his activism, with a few suggesting police may have played a role in the killing. During Youth Radio’s coverage of the unrest in Ferguson, our reporter Myles Bess had a chance to talk to Seals about his vision for his community.
Myles Bess: Can I have you start off by introducing yourself– first name, last name, age, and a little bit about yourself maybe?
Darren Seals: My name’s Darren Seals, I’m 27 years old. I’ve been living in Ferguson since I was in seventh grade, and I’ve been living in St Louis my whole life so I’m familiar with everything and everybody in this city.
MB: Just off first reaction, how did you feel when you got the news that he had passed?
DS: My first reaction was fight back. That was the first thought, like oh no, we ain’t going for that, we’re not going to let nobody in our community just die, and [do] nothing about it. It’s the same reaction you have as when somebody comes up to you and punches you in your face: hit ‘em back.
MB: With that hit ‘em back mentality, how do you feel about what’s been happening here in Ferguson, with the protests and the people standing up for what they believe in and staying here for as long as they have?
DS: I think it’s a good representation of what we stand for in St. Louis. We’re fighters. We don’t back down from nothing. They got tear gas, they shot us with rubber bullets. My friend, [..] she was shot in the head with a real bullet. And she got out of the hospital and came right back out to the protest. That’s what we do. [..] Last year I was shot seven times. So the things that have occurred, it really hits home for me because I’ve been through this struggle, I’ve been through this walk of life. And I made it out of it, and these young brothers didn’t make it out of it. We’re losing people every day because of this system.
And as for Ferguson, I’d love to see a youth center being built in this community, because these kids don’t have anything out here. We don’t have nothing here for them. Nothing. That’s why everybody fights back. We don’t got nothing to lose. We’ve been teargassed, we’ve been shot, we come back the next day like nothing happened. And you know why? Because we don’t got nothing to lose. We don’t care.
MB: I agree with you with that mentality. I feel like there’s a lot of young black people who feel that they have nothing to lose. I just want to know where you feel that perception comes from.
DS: That idea comes from the way we’ve been raised in life, we’ve been taught from day one we were nothing. We come from slavery. The church tells you you’re nothing but a sinner. Schools tell you you’re nothing but a slave. Police tell you you’re nothing but a n*****. So we’ve been taught we’re nothing our whole life. [We’re gonna?] raise this beast, we’re gonna raise this monster. And this is the results. This same monster you done created came back to haunt you, to bite you on the ass. And it aint going nowhere. Until we come together and fix it, it’s not going nowhere, it’s only going to get worse. It’s not going to get better at all.
Back in the day, when a slave master would hang a slave, he would leave him there for a long time so people could see it, and strike fear in their hearts. But what they don’t understand is them doing that, that makes us more furious. It made us madder and madder and madder.
We just showed the world! We showed the world, not just America, not just St Louis, the whole world watched and we showed them the power of coming together.
MB: You said some really powerful things. Do you have anything else you want to say on the subject?
DS: I got one more thing I wanna say. This is my biggest problem with the world. It’s not just a black problem, it’s not just a St. Louis problem, it’s a world problem. We gotta stop showing the world we don’t care about these issues until it becomes negative, until it becomes dramatic. When a boy was just laying here dead, we didn’t get all this attention. We didn’t get CNN, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Young Jeezy, nobody gave a fuck. Not even Nelly! Didn’t give a fuck! He ain’t never gave a fuck anyway. He only came because he had the pressure on him, that’s why he came.
Nobody gave a fuck when it was just Michael Brown, a young boy dead. Brian Quick (??) down, now everybody’s coming. That’s sending the wrong message. We gotta be valuing life more than the material. We value money, cars, clothes, buildings, stores. It’s been more about the looting and the rioting than the boy actually dead. His life is more valuable than any of that. So my whole thing is, the world needs to wake the fuck up and understand: value life more. Put life first. It shouldn’t be money over everything. It should be life over everything; people over everything; love over everything. Once we start valuing life more than we do money, this will not happen. The officer called this stuff “doing his job.” He valued his job, his money, over that boy’s life. When it should have been him valuing that boy’s life over his job. And that’s how I feel.