Pastor Cori Bush visited Brandeis on Tuesday to recount her journey in the struggle to end police violence and resource deprivation in the St. Louis and Ferguson area during an event called From Protest to Politics: The Ferguson Uprising; Challenging Long Standing Injustices. Bush was on the frontlines of the Ferguson movement as a protester, as clergy, as a medic and as a victim of police violence.
Bush never saw herself becoming a politician, primarily because she was the daughter of a politician. “I knew every piece of what it takes to run a campaign—and that’s why I said I would never do one.” She decided to become a preacher and a registered nurse and take care of people that way.
However, the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown thrusted her into the world of activism.
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old African American man, was fatally shot by a white police officer, 28-year-old Darren Wilson, in the city of Ferguson, M.O.
She was sent to Ferguson with her job, and while there, she was shocked by what the people of Ferguson were going through. The people of Ferguson were being “held hostage.” Transportation in the city was shut down, and many did not have access to food. “There was a lot of anger, and a lot of hurt, and I thought I could help someone as a nurse.”
Bush went to protests in Ferguson to support the physical and mental well-being of activists but began to join to protests in the evening because she “wanted to see justice.”
Bush kept going to protest every day “we could not not see justice, I thought. It didn’t make sense to me at the time.”
Bush recounted growing up with cops coming to visit her politician father. At Ferguson, however, she saw a different side to the cops.
“Cops were beating people with batons—simply for stepping off a curb.” Bush said. “We were scared to stop marching and get beaten.” She talked about how many of the protesters did not know their rights and what the police could or couldn’t do.
“They would tear gas us,” said Bush. “What you didn’t see on the news is that they would shoot the tear gas directly at people.”
“Nobody knows what we went through,” said Bush. “We had no desire to be violent—we just wanted justice.”
Her experience with Ferguson pushed her to run for U.S. Senate in 2016. She lost, but Bush said she learned how to connect with voters and find a message that resonated with them.
Bush faced countless harassment, some stemming from the KKK; however, this did not stop her from running for office again.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned with Bush during her 2018 race for Missouri’s First Congressional District. Bush and Ocasio-Cortez were both backed by Brand New Congress, an organization created by former Bernie Sanders staffers.
Bush ultimately lost, only taking 36.9 percent of the votes. If she had been elected, Bush would have been the first black woman Missouri had ever sent to Congress.
The event was sponsored by the PAX Department, Student Union Social Justice and Diversity Committee.