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NAACP Organizes March From Ferguson To Jefferson City

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In Missouri, they're calling it the Journey for Justice. Marchers will walk 120 miles over the course of seven days, from Ferguson to the governor's mansion in Jefferson City. The march is organized by the NAACP. And joining us from Highway 100 on the march route on day three of that journey is NAACP president, Cornell William Brooks. Welcome to the program.

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS: It's a delight to be here.

BLOCK: And you're walking and you're talking?

BROOKS: I am walking and talking.

BLOCK: Well, how many folks do you have there with you right now?

BROOKS: So we have about 50 or so marchers with us, which, as you may recall, is the same number that marched the entire route on the march from Selma to Montgomery - which as you may know, began with the death of a young, African-American man at the hands of law enforcement. So here we are in 2014, almost 50 years later, with another march which commences at the - as a consequence of the tragic death of Michael Brown.

BLOCK: Mr. Brooks, are you going to be marching all of the 120 miles yourself?

BROOKS: That is my hope and endeavor. This is the third day. We've clocked about 50 miles.

BLOCK: How are your shoes and your feet holding up?

BROOKS: Well, my boots are holding up better than my feet. But we have wonderful supporters who are walking with us. And civil rights progress in this country has been made both as a matter of law and a matter of faith. We believe both in the law - but more importantly, we believe in the capacity of the citizens of this country to bring about change.

BLOCK: What kind of reception have you been getting along the march route as you make your way toward Jefferson City?

BROOKS: The overwhelming response has been positive. And so our effort here is to march across Missouri and into the hearts of people because we happen to believe that most people have a sense of our shared citizenship and our common humanity. And they - at the end of the day, most people believe our children should be kept safe. And it cannot be that we have to profile our children in order to keep our communities safe.

BLOCK: You know, Mr. Brooks, I'm thinking back to the analogy that you drew with the march in 1965, from Selma to Montgomery, prompted by the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson. I'm thinking about the circumstances of that shooting. Mr. Jackson was with his mother, with his grandparents. He was beaten and shot in a mass assault by police. This was when he was taking part in a nonviolent civil rights march over voting rights that started at a church. Of course, the situation with Michael Brown was quite different from that. He was shot after some sort of altercation with Officer Wilson, after he had robbed a convenience store. How close a parallel do you draw between those two shootings?

BROOKS: We're not looking to make perfect historical analogies. What we're looking to do is draw upon the deep, moral legacy and civil rights history of the Selma to Montgomery march. But look - look at your television. We simply cannot ignore young person after young person after young person losing their lives at the hands of the police. I'm a father of a high school freshman and a high school senior. I have been profiled myself. I've been pulled over. I've been followed in stores because of the color of my skin. When I look at my sons, I don't want them to experience what I've experienced or what Mike Brown and his entire generation seemingly has experienced. They feel, based upon their lived experience, that they're living in the midst of a pandemic of police misconduct.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Brooks, thanks so much for taking time out from the march to talk with us today. I appreciate it.

BROOKS: Thank you. Take care, God bless.

BLOCK: That's NAACP president, Cornell William Brooks. He spoke to us from the route of the Journey for Justice. Marchers left Ferguson on Saturday and plan to reach Missouri's capital, Jefferson City, on Friday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.