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Alma Mater Concludes Social Justice Program with Commemoration of Michael Brown’s 25th Birthday

WELLSTON, MO -- It’s been almost six years since images of Michael Brown’s lifeless body lying in the street galvanized a movement. Today his legacy lives on at his alma mater.

     Michael Brown, the teenager who was killed in August 2014 by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, has been memorialized with the Normandy High School Michael Brown Program for Social Justice and Leadership.

      The Program for Social Justice and Leadership closed out the school year with a special observance of Michael Brown’s 25th birthday. On Monday, May 17, Normandy High School students joined with students from University City and Clayton school districts for a program including recorded greetings and remarks from national speakers, speeches from students and staff, special performances from Margaret Mischeaux, NHS senior and Opera Theater of St. Louis Artist-in-Training student, the Gentlemen of Vision youth development program/step team, percussionist David A.N. Jacksin, and an original spoken word performance by Grace Ruo, St. Louis youth poet laureate. The theme for the May 17 program was BE Courageous.

     Also present were the Rainbow of Mothers, women who have lost loved ones due to police violence. Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice; Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, and Gina Best, mother of India Kager, joined McSpadden to thank the students, staff and community for their support and keeping their loved ones’ legacies alive.

      The May 17th program culminated with a march led by the Normandy High School drumline and Lezley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, to St. Peter’s Cemetery where Brown is buried. Students joined McSpadden and her family at his grave, before laying 25 roses and releasing 25 doves in his honor. Michael Brown would have turned 25 on May 20.

     The Michael Brown Program for Social Justice and Leadership is a program committed to promoting social justice awareness, leadership, and civic engagement in Normandy High School students. Students are presented with a platform and space where they are encouraged to learn, engage, and take action on a series of topics and initiatives that move and challenge them. Each month students are granted the opportunity to interact with thought leaders who focus their dialogue on that month’s selected topic, encouraging, challenging, and outlining what students can do to be the difference they want to see in their school and community.

         Normandy High School leaders, along with Brown’s mother, launched the program in November 2020. The first session was introduced following a summer of social justice protests and one of the most contentious elections in U.S. history.

     “Given what has happened and continues to happen in our communities, the pandemic, and the rising tensions around racial justice, our students need a lot of support and encouragement,” explained Nakia Douglas, Normandy High School principal & assistant superintendent for secondary education.

     “Students want to process what happened and know ‘where do we go from here?’” said Isaiah Melendez, Normandy High School assistant principal. “This will help create that space for them.”

     Since the inaugural webinar, students have heard from some of the nation’s most prolific leaders in the social justice movement. Speakers have included Patrisse Collurs, founder of the Black Lives Matter movement; U.S. Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri; civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton; Justin Hansford, associate professor at Howard University School of Law and Executive Director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center; and recently elected mayor of St. Louis, Tishaura Jones.

      “This program has been a great way to connect our students with relevant leaders and the current events in our nation and provide them ways to learn how to positively impact their communities,” said Douglas. “We are so grateful to Ms. McSpadden and the Michael O.D. Brown Foundation for allowing us to be a part of Michael’s legacy.”


St. Louis Post-Dispatch Multimedia Feature - 

Normandy High School celebrates Michael Brown's birthday to cap new social justice program