Saturday, August 16, 2014


Yesterday afternoon, I started reading all the tweets from the last week from this guy named, I think, Eman. He rents the house that Mike Brown was shot in front of.

Like lots of other people, I heard about him when it was reported that he live-tweeted Brown's death ("I JUST SAW SOMEONE DIE ... Im about to hyperventilate ... apparently he stole some rellos"). But his Twitter feed is a window on being young, black and male right now in Ferguson, Missouri.

"My dad a black activist, so he pissed," he tweeted three hours after the shooting. Five minutes later, he retweeted this from a friend who I think might also be his recording partner: "Rodney king wasn't remembered the riots were."

Two hours after that, as word spread and the angry crowds outside his house got bigger, Eman wrote in his own voice: "Can never fight violence with violence. Never."

Over the next few days (while simultaneously flirting with girls, joking about Taco Bell and earnestly discussing the ethics of the robbery-shooting link a week before it was in the media), you can watch it happen: Eman became political.

"The people revolt in Egypt & we applaud their bravery.. What do we do? Tweet?" he retweeted the day after Brown's death.

At 8:30 pm on Monday: "Im out here. Im gon stay out here. This is my neighborhood. This is my front yard."

He asks friends where they are; he spreads news that a rumor that Brown's friend was shot by police is false.

Tuesday, in a conversation about the legacy of the Watts riots: "Neither side progressed. Today we stand in peace. If tear gas is involved so be it. ... what we need is justice. And i will not sit inside and watch them serve our people injustice."


On Wednesday, people in the media (white people, in other words) started noticing him. He had this conversation about whether he should talk to anyone.

"i refuse to go in the media," he wrote. "I may meet with the justice department. And lawyers. Not on camera."

A white liberal radio host clumsily and patronizingly tried to get him to talk. He tweeted a photo of their ridiculous DM conversation with the message "PLEASE DONT TRY TO BUY ME OUT, MONEY OR ANYTHING. MY STORY IS FOR JUSTICE."

He's also been loving the attention, of course. One of his retweets, from Wednesday, was a comment to him: "@TheePharoah PLEASE stay safe. You're the most important person in America right now."

Reading the kid's tweets and conversations with his friends, you can feel the anger and sometimes fear but also the exhileration of knowing that for once, millions of people around the world are focused on problems they've spent their lives dealing with. After the mainstream media had finally arrived and photographed ranks of white county police with tanks and sniper rifles facing down black residents in t-shirts, he retweeted: "Without twitter and social media the majority of the public would be blind on what's going on here." Later that day, a friend named Kayla who goes by @kayyBOMB_ on Twitter wasn't ashamed to show her excitement:

"It's so cool that this is history and everyone cares and we're gonna be able to pass this piece of history on."

That's something I hadn't understood until yesterday. For a lot of folks in Ferguson (at least until, god forbid, someone close to them is hurt) this has been a crazy week, but in many ways not a terrible one. It's a rare thing: a moment with a sense of direction.

The state troopers arrived on Thursday, without tanks, and tried to defuse the fury.

"Over 10,000 people," he wrote early Thursday evening. "This is real."

Eventually, every demonstration ends. What will matter is what people who are activated by them — people like Eman, and I guess like me, and maybe like you — choose to do next.

Here's what Eman wrote at 2:30 this morning.

"My dad told me i would have to step up one day.. just never knew it would be at 19."

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