Exclusive photos of Michael Brown’s father renewing his faith on the day before a grand jury decision broke his community’s faith in justice—and the two pastor brothers who guided both parents.
When Michael Brown Sr. joined nearly a dozen members of his family to be baptized Sunday, his son was supposed to be there. For reasons that might never be known, Michael Brown instead lay in a grave in the city of Ferguson, as the family and the world waited to hear whether the officer who killed him would be indicted.
Brown Sr. walked into a 400-gallon pool at Calvary West Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, soaking his white undershirt and gray shorts, water dripping off his long, jet black beard. When he emerged, the lights overhead glinted off Brown’s gold front teeth, exposed and gleaming from a wide grin.
“In the Christian faith a person can be baptized whenever they decide to, and Michael Brown Sr. decided this was the right time,” Rev. Carlton Lee said. “It had nothing to do with the grand jury decision. It was something the family was going to do before this situation came into play—before their son was murdered.”
The occasion marked the second time Brown Sr. has committed to Christ—a pledge he intended to make with his 18-year-old son.
“To see him make that commitment, and then the fact that he wanted to make sure his kids were baptized, speaks volumes,” Lee said.
A little more than 24 hours after the ceremony, Brown would join the rest of the world in hearing the grand jury’s decision: His son’s killer, Darren Wilson, would not be indicted.
Within the 12 hours that followed, Lee’s brother, the Rev. Henry Logan, would watch the Heal STL office where he worked burn to the ground. By Wednesday morning, Lee’s church sat in ruins, itself the target of an apparent arson.
“Right now we’re trying to just find… we have yet to figure that out,” Lee said with a pause, trying to come up with the words to express the loss of his church and the coming search for a new one. “Wherever it is, it will be in Ferguson.”
“We are committed to this community and this cause,” he said. “We are committed to continue the fight for justice. We just have to figure out where to go from here.”
Lee’s remarks mirror the opinion of many in Ferguson, where Mike Brown is seen mostly as an innocent victim of an overbearing cop. His death—the result of a 90-second interaction with Wilson—eventually exploded into an international news event that began on Canfield Drive, where the teen went down, and where his father was seen in hysterics as his son’s blood dried on the asphalt.
With little information being provided by the cops, Brown’s legend grew. Social media pushed rumors and misinformation, videos, witnesses, leads, angles, the wrong cop’s name, alternative stories—anything and everything that comes as a result of a chaotic situation. By the time looting began the next night, Brown’s son had unwittingly and tragically taken his father’s name farther than the St. Louis-area native likely ever would.
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