The family of Brandon Tate-Brown, a victim of police violence in Philadelphia, reflects on his life and death.
It was Ms. Tanya Brown-Dickerson’s first time at a protest this Sunday and the circumstances that catalyzed her participation in civil disobedience are hard to hear: her 26 year-old son, Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, last week was shot in the back of the head by a Philadelphia police officer during a traffic stop.
Ms. Brown-Dickerson, a single mother, was parking at her job in the early morning of Monday, December 15th, 2014, when a news report broke on the radio: a 26 year-old black male in a white, rented Dodge Charger with Florida tags was shot and killed by police at the 6500 block of Frankford Avenue.
“I knew it was my son,” she said, “I tried to call him 50 million times… he never ignores my calls; we talk every morning… I was in disbelief.”
It was around the same time – 6:20am – that Mr. Tate-Brown’s younger brother, Juwan Dickerson, 20, also heard the bad news.
“My sister knocked on my door and said I think Brandon has been shot by the police. I walked to his house and didn’t see his car; that’s when the questions became answers,” he said, carrying a small donation box with his brother’s picture on it.
As I walked with the family on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City Philadelphia, less than twenty-fours away from Mr. Tate-Brown’s funeral, I inquired about who he was as a person; as a brother; as a son.
“He was loving and caring,” said his mother, a sentiment that his brother echoed verbatim, adding only that he was also “a joker and protector.”
Remembering Mr. Tate-Brown’s sense of humor brought smiles to the faces of his family.
“Last Halloween, he put on my wig; my big floppy hat; stuffed his bra; put on lipstick and sat on my steps and gave out candy… Brandon had the biggest sense of humor,” remarked his mother, when I asked of her fondest memory of him.
Mr. Dickerson’s favorite memory was this past Thanksgiving when he and his older brother did a little show for the family.
“Shake that booty, booty, booty,” he sang, trying to remember the exact melody of their showcase, “it was such a wonderful time.”
“Brandon would make the biggest fool of himself; he wanted everyone to laugh,” added his mother, who told me her second favorite moment was when he was six and he dressed up like a power ranger. “He loved the power rangers,” she said.
From my short conversation with Ms. Brown-Dickerson, Mr. Tate-Brown came across like a larger than life personality who belonged on the stage. During my even shorter conversation the younger brother of the deceased, he confirmed the superstar status of Mr. Tate-Brown and told me that “Brandon was an inspiration to many,” especially to him.
“He was more like my father,” Mr. Dickerson said, “my big bro was everything to me… he was my heart… and now he’s gone… and it hurts… it hurts real badly.”
Mr. Dickerson wanted to be just like his brother. Ever since he was seven years-old and he watched him play football, he wanted to “walk how he walked and talk how he talked.”
The family had no comments regarding their feelings towards the Philadelphia Police Department, only saying that they want a “fair and independent investigation.”
They’re not the only ones who want to know what really happened that morning. Among the thousands of protesters that joined the Philly Blackout March last Sunday, a handful of them carried signs with Brandon’s name and likeness on it, along with the message “his life mattered” and “Justice for Brandon Tate-Brown.”
“Just like I can’t describe the pain, I can’t describe the excitement of seeing so many people honoring my son. This is bigger than a Christmas present or even a diamond ring,” said Ms. Brown-Dickerson.
After hearing of the deaths of Mr. Michael Brown, Jr., and Mr. Eric Garner, Ms. Brown-Dickerson prayed and asked to be put in a position where her voice can be heard and she’s able to help people.
She had no idea that her transition into the role of a public advocate would come at the expense of her eldest son’s life.
But rather than be bitter, she’s grateful for the time she was able to spend with her son – who absolutely loved everything she cooked – and she still thanks and believes in God, because she’s confident now that her son – who was taught to believe in and reverence a higher power – gets an opportunity to entertain the angels.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™