Today marks four years since Ferguson police officer Darrin Wilson murdered 18-year-old Michael Brown in the street.
Last night I wrote a song that I sung to my son based on the song “Joe Hill” about the great labor organizer, musician, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) who was framed on a murder charge and killed by a Utah police firing squad. I am publishing my lyrics to “I dreamed I Saw Mike Brown Last Night” (see below) in case other parents want to sing it to their kids to keep his memory alive.
But first some background. Witnesses testified that Michael Brown had his hands up saying, “Don’t shoot,” when Wilson fired a total of twelve bullets, six of the hitting Brown. The Ferguson police then left Brown’s body in the street for some 4 hours.
Protests erupted in Ferguson and continued for more than a week and the Police responded with militarized attacks, unhinged brutality, and established a nightly curfew. The protests forced people everywhere to pay attention to police violence and propelled #BlackLivesMatter, which had started in the wake of the murder of Tryvon Martin, into a mass national movement.
When a grand jury acquitted Darrin Wilson, the movement again surged forward with mass protests around the country. At Garfield High School, where I teach, the students led one of the biggest walkouts in the school’s history against the non-indictment of Darrin Wilson. That walkout taught me that rebuilding mass social movements is possible and inspired me to write these words in honor of Michael Brown.
Listen to the incomparable Paul Robson’s version of “Joe Hill” to learn the tune of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Kxq9uFDes
Then try singing these lyrics.
I Dreamed I saw Mike Brown Last Night
I dreamed I saw Mike Brown last night Alive as you and me Says I to Mike, "You're four years dead" "I never died," says he "I never died," says he "In Ferguson, Mike," says I to him Him standing by my bed "They framed you on a strong-armed robbery charge" Says Mike, "But I ain’t dead" Says Mike, "But I ain’t dead" "The Ferguson Police killed you Mike," "They shot you Mike," says I "Takes more than guns to kill someone" Says Mike, "I didn’t die" Says Mike, "I didn’t die" And standing there as big as life And smiling with his eyes, Mike said, "What they could never kill" "Became the movement for Black lives" "Became the movement for Black lives" "Mike Brown ain’t dead," he says to me "Mike Brown ain’t never died" "Where the people march with their hands up" "Mike Brown is by their side" "Mike Brown is by their side" From Seattle to Ferguson in every street and town Where the people march and fight for Black Lives It’s there you’ll find Mike Brown It’s there you’ll find Mike Brown