Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil The Life Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown, the book lovingly co-authored by his mom, Lezley McSpadden is on bookshelves now. I can’t help but to think about Beyonce’s Freedom visual song when I look at the book cover with McSpadden’s pic dead center (McSpadden appears in the video sitting in a chair as she holds a pic of her deceased son). The words “Freedom Freedom I can’t lose” is what I see when I look at the book cover as her eyes look back at me.
On August 9, 2014, Lezley McSpadden’s world was shattered when Michael Brown, her oldest son, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Through it all—questionable proceedings, an unfathomable outcome, rebellions and a stinging Department of Justice report on Ferguson’s police department and courts McSpadden has largely remained quiet. Until now.
In Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown (Regan Arts, $26.95), McSpadden (with coauthor Lyah Beth LeFlore) opens her soul, revealing a mother’s dreams for her family and the nightmare of losing a child to violence. Here is an excerpt from McSpadden’s exclusive interview with Essence June issue where explains why it was time for her to speak now.
First off, I don’t tell lies, because I can’t keep up with them. My grandmother always said, “Don’t lie. Tell the truth and shame the devil.” She considered a lie a curse word and would be like, “Believe what you see and none of what you heard.” Your word is what you still got when you don’t have any money. That’s why if I give you my word, say I’m going to do something or tell you I got you, then I’m ten toes down. Anybody who knows me for real knows that. Feel me? So that’s why I have to say this to the world, and I want you to hear me loud and clear. Never mind what you’ve heard or think you know about Michael Brown, or about me, for that matter. You don’t know about Mike Mike. You don’t know about me. Now, you might know something, some snippet, some half a moment in time, but you don’t know my son’s life and what it meant, and an 18-second video doesn’t tell you anything about 18 years.
See, before the news media and the nation first heard the name Michael Brown, he was just Mike Mike to me. That’s what we called him. Everybody thinks he was a junior, but he wasn’t. Even though he had his daddy’s first and last name, his full name was Michael Orlandus Darrion Brown. I wanted my son to have his own identity, so he did. From the moment Mike Mike was born, I knew my life had changed forever. I was 16 years old with an infant. I didn’t know what kind of mother I was going to be. But when I held him in my arms for the first time and felt his soft skin, he opened his eyes, and I could see my reflection in his little pupils. I suddenly wasn’t scared anymore. It was like we were communicating with each other without words.
I was saying, “I got your back, baby,” and he was saying, “I got yours, too, Mama.”
I can’t just say he was mine, though. When Mike Mike was born, he was adored, doted on and loved by me and his daddy, my siblings and his grandparents on both sides, who helped with his rearing. He was our beautiful, -unplanned surprise—my first son, a first grandson and the first nephew in my family.
When my son was killed, everybody had his or her own version of how everything went down. Cops with their version of the facts. People living in the Canfield Apartments with another. The television and newspaper people, EMTs, firemen, old people, young people, Black, White, you name it—everyone with a different story that was supposed to be the truth about my son’s last minutes on earth. My son was dead on the street in front of the world, and everybody -except Mike Mike was busy telling his story. Even in the months since that horrible day, people still haven’t stopped talking, from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, in the beauty shop and coffee shop, everywhere. Well, let me just say this: I wasn’t there when Mike Mike was shot. I didn’t see him fall or take his last breath, but as his mother, I do know one thing better than anyone, and that’s how to tell my son’s story, and the journey we shared together as mother and son.
I don’t wish this pain, this struggle, this hurt, this void, this guilt or this grief on anybody. After Mike Mike died, I believed we would have justice. I waited for the police to right the wrong, I waited for the county to bring justice for Mike Mike, I waited for the DOJ to discover the truth. The system has failed my son. It has failed me and it has failed all of us. But, now, I know that I can’t wait for anybody else to make change. I must make change, myself. That will be Mike Mike’s legacy; that will be his justice.