Mike Brown Sr. and 'Chosen for Change' Foundation Promote Justice and Community

“We need to get this word out that this wickedness is happening to us,” said Andrew Joseph, Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri on the 5th anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. “For every Michael Brown, there are 100 Andrew Josephs that you never heard of. So we’re coming together as families to heal each other, and to support each other.”

Joseph is the father of Andrew Joseph, III, a 14-year-old from Tampa who died 5 years ago on February 7, 2014. During the Florida State Fair, Joseph was struck and killed by a motorist as he tried to cross Interstate 4 on foot after being wrongfully detained, ejected, transported, and then abandoned miles from the fair by police who did not bother to call his parents – who have since become tireless advocates.

Andrew and Deanna Joseph were two parents of many “Chosen Families” on hand to show love and solidarity with the Brown family, where Michael Brown Sr. made a public plea to reopen an investigation into the conduct of Darren Wilson, the officer who killed his son.

Michael Brown Sr. and his Chosen for Change Foundation has intentionally lifted up other families to fight together. “I just feel that I have to do that,” Brown, Sr said.

“This platform got huge at the time it had happened, so I definitely want to share it with the other families who lost loved ones.

Because they didn’t have a platform. So sharing that and giving them the space so they can get their story out is definitely big.”

“It’s really emotional because I too have experienced such a great loss of my son,” said LaToya Howell on her first trip to Ferguson, “When we see community in unity like this with the family members together, we need to continue to spread this awareness and grow stronger in the struggle. You know that we have a support system in place. But what we have to do is bring these cops to be held accountable.” Howell’s son, Justus Howell, was shot in the back by a police officer on April 4, 2015, the same day Walter Scott was famously shot in the back by Michael Slager. Howell continues her relentless activism in relative obscurity. Others on hand included Ollie Gordon and Airika Gordon-Taylor, family members of Emmett Till, and many lesser known families who have escaped national attention, no matter how horrific the killing. Monteria Robinson came from Atlanta to visit Ferguson for the first time. While at the Mike Brown memorial, she told about her continued fight for justice for her son:

Jamarion Robinson was killed August 5, 2016. The door was battle-rammed open by 14 rogue police officers. Over 90 rounds were fired at my son. Over 90 rounds were fired at my son. He was struck 76 times. He had 76 wounds in his body. He was shot six times in the palm of his right hand and five times in the palm of left hand. No one deserves to die that way.”

In an unprecedented lawsuit, Robinson, and a local Georgia district attorney are suing the Department of Justice just to get information on her son’s death at the hands of federal marshals in what Robinson says was a case of mistaken identity. “After killing my son, they showed my mom and my brothers a photo of the person they were looking for. My mom stated, ‘That’s not my grandson’’

At the Mike Brown memorial, Marlene Gebhard also shared disturbing and largely unknown details of her grandson’s death by a police officer he knew. “People should understand that Tyler Gebhard was killed by a police officer in a home that he had been in two dozen times,” Gebhard said. “The majority of people don’t know that. The shooter was interviewed for only 12 minutes five hours later. How does that happen? There were 47 police officers on the scene of Tyler’s killing. Forty-seven.”

Like the deaths of Andrew Joseph, Justus Howell, and Jamarion Robinson, Tyler Gebhard was one of so many deaths that were overlooked in the wake of other shootings. Gebhard was killed by police the same week as Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

Sterling’s aunt, Veda Washington-Abusaleh summed up the mixed emotions at the event. “It’s heartbreaking to be here, but I had to come to support the Brown family as well as all the other families. I’m out here today to support big Mike. We are out here from all over the United States in solidarity. We support each other as a family.”

That family extended to all of the Ferguson protestors. “I thought it was an amazing experience to be in Ferguson” LaToya Howell said. “It is very emotional. And just to see the pure love they have for Mike.”

That love from the Ferguson community did not go unnoticed. Brown specifically dedicated the 5th anniversary to “the Ferguson Frontline” protestors at the heart of the Ferguson Uprising. Brown placed “Chosen for Change” medals around the necks of many of those protesters. “You did it straight from the heart without any second thoughts.”, Brown said. “So I want to give you a token of my love from the family. You deserve it, I dedicate this year to you. This is from me to you.”

Finally, Brown and several families on hand also extended that great appreciation for Colin Kaepernick for his part in raising the awareness about so many unheard of parents. In a heartfelt message, Andrew Joseph summed up his appreciation for Kaepernick, the families, the heartbreak and the great love that characterized the 5th anniversary.

“We appreciate Kaepernick a great deal and the families that are demanding justice. If I had 10,000 tongues, I couldn’t thank him enough. Thank you because is there is no feeling in the world like going to the graveyard to have to visit your child. As a grown man, it tears you up. It’s the worst feeling in the world. I now understand how mine had to die for many more to live.”

He continued, “Every time your child leaves the house as a minority, it’s almost a present for them to return. Sit down and have a family dinner. Take photos, take recordings and videos. Right now I’m starting to forget what my son sounds like. My wife forgets how he smells. These stories are meant to make you love your loved ones a little bit harder and a little bit closer. Every day is a present. A real gift. And tomorrows are not promised. We have to take advantage of today.”

About the Author

Chuck Modiano is an educator, journalist, and youth advocate dedicated to exposing power, oppression, and privilege in sports and policing. He has amplified marginalized voices at protests including Ferguson, Baltimore, Standing Rock, Selma (#50), and Charlottesville. He is currently a sports columnist for the New York Daily News, and has been a contributing author to “Killing Trayvons” and “Football Culture and Power.” Follow him on Twitter @ChuckModi1.