Funeral in St. Louis: "We Are—VonDerrit! You Are—VonDerrit!"

November 3, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Revolution/ received the following correspondence from Ferguson:

On October 26, 500 people filled the Prince of Peace Missionary Church in St. Louis for the funeral of VonDerrit Myers, an unarmed 18-year-old Black man shot and killed by an off-duty St. Louis cop on October 8.

There was aching sadness, moments of bitter indictment, and, after the service, a mass expression of defiance and commitment by youth and others in attendance. Friends of VonDerrit, or "Droop," as he was called, spoke about sharing good times and funny times, as well as sharing their dreams. They also spoke of terrible emptiness in their lives since VonDerrit's life was stolen. Their loving tributes, read through tears, were themselves an indictment of how Droop has been demonized in death by the authorities. One of the ministers commented, after the audience watched a beautiful slideshow presentation of VonDerrit's life, why doesn't the media use any of those photos in their stories after VonDerrit was killed? Instead, the media ran the usual narrative—mug shot, thug shot, "young man with record"—to justify VonDerrit's murder.

The funeral service expressed both thinking and emotions of looking to god for answers and solace, along with commentary from the pulpit that was biting and at times hilariously sarcastic about racism against Black people rooted in very earthly processes. Almost absent was the blaming of youth for the conditions they face or distancing from the rebellious protests that many have been involved in following the murders of Mike Brown and VonDerrit Myers.

Protesters were invited by VonDerrit's family to attend the funeral, given designated seating, and saluted from the pulpit. During the service, the minister asked protesters to stand up. In chorus, the church shouted "Hands up!"—which has become a rally cry for the movement against the police murders of Mike Brown and VonDerrit Myers. The minister said these are the people who we need to pass the torch to. After the service, protesters formed a chant and drum circle in front of the church. As the mourners left the church and mingled, they heard the sounds of "We are—VonDerrit! You are—VonDerrit!"

Carl Dix said in his October 9 statement on VonDerrit's murder: " A resident whose son had been with Myers on Wednesday night said, 'They have been harassing him all day like they do all the time, pulling him over, stopping him.' 'That's how it is. They harass the kids in the neighborhood. Our kids walk around in their own neighborhood and get harassed for it.' This is the reality of life in this country for Black people. It has become a daily fact of life that Black youth have to fear for their lives, and face the danger of summary execution by police at any time, for doing anything, or nothing.

"Why does an off-duty cop feel like he can be making 'pedestrian stops' of Black youth while he's moonlighting as a security guard? This killing and the story the police are using to justify it reflect how Black people are criminalized in this society. Some Black youth walking together are suspicious and need to be jacked up by a cop, even if the cop is off duty. This is like the Black Codes that southern states, including Missouri, enforced during the days of slavery which gave whites the power to break up any gatherings of 3 or more Black people. And it brings to mind the 1857 Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which said that Black people had no rights that white people are bound to respect.


What happened after the October 8 murder of VonDerrit was an example of what has begun to change. Immediately after news broke of VonDerrit's killing, carloads of defiant youth protesting for justice for Michael Brown at the Ferguson police station raced down to the south side of St. Louis to protest at the scene of VonDerrit's killing. The crowd grew to a couple hundred as people marched through the neighborhood. Many neighbors, Black and white, joined the protest. People widely did not accept the usual story and justification for another police murder of a Black youth. A few days later, during the Ferguson October Weekend of Resistance, close to a thousand people joined a protest that started at VonDerrit's memorial and marched for miles to occupy St. Louis University. There have been nightly protests over the last three weeks.

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