Lesley McSpadden. Photo Credit: Mark Seliger
The world came to know the name Michael Brown after he was gunned down by a police officer on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. But his mother, Lezley McSpadden, says beyond his name, the world knows very little of her son.
She’s sharing his story and her own in book titled, Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown, coauthored by Lyah Beth LeFlore.
Essence.com published this exclusive excerpt of the book that is now available on Amazon.com.
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.
And then one day our Mike Mike was shot and killed by a police officer on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri, and suddenly his name was being spoken everywhere: Mike Brown, Jr., Michael Brown or just Brown…but never Mike Mike, never our family’s name for him, the name that marked him as special to us and those who knew him for real. Pastor Creflo Dollar asked me what I thought about all the people out there on Canfield Drive when I got to the scene the day Mike Mike was shot. I turned, looking directly at him, and as sure as the breath I’m breathing, in a very matter-of-fact way, said, “I didn’t see those people. That day, I was looking for one person: my son. Nobody else mattered.” I think I kind of shocked -Pastor -Dollar. I was respectful, of course, but I had to tell it to him straight up. I was just keeping it real. You see, because as a mother, when your child is hurt, scared or in danger, you hurt, you want to comfort them, and you will protect them from harm, even if it means -laying your own life down. That day out on Canfield Drive, I had tunnel vision. Nothing and nobody was more -important than getting to Mike Mike and helping him in any way I could. It wasn’t until days later, when I looked at the news and people showed me pictures from their phones that I saw the crowd of folks who had been out there. So the only way I can really describe that day is to compare it to the day I had Mike Mike. Bringing him into the world was almost the same feeling as when he left here—a lot of people making noise and milling around, and my attention just glued to my new baby boy.
I’m not going to lie; I’ve been wanting to get mad and just go f–k the world up, because my son being killed has messed my whole life up. No way should my son have left here before me. But I have to stop myself every time my anger begins to build like that. If I look at it that way too long, I’ll find myself in trouble, doing something out of rage and revenge. That would be out of my character, and Mike Mike would never want me to do anything like that. It’s so hard sometimes, but I have to find some type of something to keep myself calm so I can be a good wife and mother for my other kids. That’s why, looking at my son’s death today, I try to see it from more of a spiritual standpoint. God let me have Mike Mike for 18 years. He wouldn’t let me have him longer because He had other plans for us. Those plans are still being revealed to me, but I believe a big part of His plans was to wake people up to some things in the world that need changing. I’m ready, though, for whatever He has in store.
On how Tina Knowles inspired her new project after they met Mother’s Day, 2015, during Prince’s “Rally 4 Peace” concert in Baltimore in honor of Freddie Gray:
I felt a light tap and turned to see Beyoncé’s mama, Tina Knowles, standing there. She immediately wrapped her arms around me … For the next few minutes she shared something very special with me.
“What are you going to do now? You have to do something,” she said, looking me in the eye.
“I know. I started a foundation, but I’m still figurin’ it all out,” I said.
“Listen, Lezley, there was an organization that started back in the 1980s called Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, MADD. You should look it up. It could inspire you.”
She had already established the Michael O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation, but that meeting inspired her to create a program called a “Rainbow of Mothers.”
That name came to me in the middle of the night. I hadn’t been this excited in months. I was smiling again. I wanted to use my voice to bring together a rainbow of mothers from all races and backgrounds who had either lost a child to street violence, gun violence, excessive police force, or just untimely death due to illness. I saw services for counseling, programs for our surviving kids, physical activities so that we could keep our bodies and minds occupied. I wanted this to be a support network for mothers across the country, maybe even the world one day.