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  • Eichel Davis

#TheFinal14: The Night The Sky Burned

I could smell smoke from my front door.

I could see the apricot colors in the sky.

I could hear the constant array of sirens, and screams, and breaking glass, all from my little feet by feet front porch. And yet, it was peaceful. Among all the chaos around me, on my street, on my dimly lit avenue of Hancock Drive, the world was in a state of calm. Or maybe it was disbelief.

I assure you, this was not a state of shock. Shock is from the unexpected, the unpredictable, the unseen. This--this had been coming for years. This, bred from injustice, and wrongdoings, and rugs to slip things under, was far from that. This was expected. This was the great fear realized. A pile of cedar that need just the right spark.

This is Ferguson, Missouri.

That summer was an unbearably hot one. Unhinged fire hydrants peppering little children in the heat-miraged streets were a common scene in Ferguson that summer. The air was almost smothering, as if it was slowly tightening around your neck. It was the perfect setting for a perfect series of events to lead to a complete disaster. Even in the span of those shorts months that followed August, the night the sky burned had been coming. It had been seething in the minds of all of us ever since that fateful day.

It’s hard to find out when it all began. It’s difficult to fathom how many awful things a community has to go through to give up so fully, to commit so fully to anger and the sense of hopelessness. Because riots are not the voice of the weak, or the wrong. They are the voice of the strong that have been broken. And Ferguson was indeed this. Before that day, we were the unheard. Before that day, we were the silenced broken. Before the riots, before the clashes, before the push, we were just a small suburban town with mighty issues.

I will always remember the day I found out who Michael Brown was. I would never forget his name. I remember sitting in the local print shop, my first job, preparing to leave for the next step Mike Brown had been robbed of. I remember a few customers coming into the store that day. I remember they all asked the same haunting question.

“Did you hear what happened?”

Five words. Five words informed me of what was about to happen. Every one of those customers seemed to bring a new piece of information. One woman looking for wedding invitations said he had his hands up. A man looking for business cards stated he was shot 8 or more times. The store owner’s husband told that his body sat in the street dead for four hours. Another customer recalled that his mother's screams were heard for all four as she watched her baby boy lay in the middle of Canfield Drive, a street my aunt used to live on when I was little.

I remember the first time I saw the hundreds of people crowding the streets that I called, affectionately so, home. I will never forget the night that followed. It was the first night that people had had enough. They had had enough of the pushing, of the restricting, of the force.

That night, that warm August night lit only with old street lights, we pushed back.

Looking back, I will recall this as a warning shot. The first shot of a war that had finally buckled from up under the many rugs that had held all the happenings of my little community for decades. It was the shot, the volley, seen, heard, tweeted, and documented across the world.

And the world changed that night.

In the months and days that followed, my little town became known across the world. Protest were an everyday thing. Most were peaceful, but as night fell the darkness got the best of some. Calls home seemed to only be about one topic. In a world that continues to move, it seemed as if time had stopped, and we were here reliving the same thing everyday. Even at my new home 126 miles away in Columbia, Missouri every newspaper I picked up had images of familiar streets. It was surreal, but it was about to become polarizing.

November 24th. No Charges Filed.

These two phrases will always be paired together in the aisles of my mind. First came the wave of silence. In all of this, for the first time, we all seemed truly shocked. My mother cried, her hand over her mouth as the television screen illuminated our faces. My sister hung onto her tight. My grandmother, a black woman, and a product of that time, couldn't keep her tears silent like my mother’s. Instead her cries were rough with emotion, and history. And this silent moment was also taking hold outside in the streets.

For a split second.

But as the news sunk deep into the hearts of a people that had hope for the first time that they would come out on top this time, as the despair, hurt, loss of said feeling reached their souls, another shot in the air sounded. This one was the real deal, the big one, the god awful blaze in the night we all feared.

It was a moment in time, one of those rare ones, where everything changed. My town, will never be the same again. It was the best thing to come out of all of it. Change. Because lack of it had been the cause of all our misfortune and circumstance in that unbearably hot summer. But above all it was that night, in our small town, that set off something that none of us could have predicted.

A Movement.

But for us, the ones who were left to pick up the pieces, it will always be known as the Night The Sky Burned. It will always be known as the night that main street was reduced to rubble, by little doing of the residents of my place. It will always be known as the night that years of silence became loud in the night with these sentiments.

No Justice. No Peace. No Justice. No Peace. No Justice. No Peace. No Justice. No Peace.

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