Lezley McSpadden is living an American nightmare that no mother should ever have to endure.
On the eve of the release of her new book, Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, And Love of My Son Michael Brown, I spoke with McSpadden for Cosmopolitan.com on her new book, working with Beyoncé and what she wants her son’s legacy to be. This year McSpadden will hit the Empowerment Experience stage at the ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans, which is held June 30-July 3. Read excerpts from the interview below.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. How are you feeling today?
I spent the day with my kids and my husband. It’s not an easy question to answer because it has to do with my feelings, and my feelings are not good feelings, you know? I’m sad today, but I’m trying to pull myself together because I try not to show my other children that part of me. I put on a brave face.
It has to be tough having to be strong for the other kids. What does a normal day look like for you?
The only thing that’s pretty normal is I still drive my kids to school, pick them up, make them lunches when they don’t like what’s being served at school. On holidays like yesterday, my 7-year-old made me a Mother’s Day card. In that card, she made a print of her hand and on all fingers, she put a name. She put her brother’s, Mike Mike, on the thumb. I asked her why did she put him on the thumb and she said, “Ma, well, ’cause it takes all five fingers to make a fist and that’s what we’re fighting for, so I put him on the thumb.” It’s really hard to deal with my grief and their grief at the same time.
Why did you write this book?
I wrote the book because I wanted everyone to know who Michael Brown was. They had no idea who Michael Brown was and he was being judged and his character was being diminished. They were trying to drag my baby through the mud and make him out to be such a bad person. [The media] didn’t tell the whole story, but there was no way for them to tell it without me opening my mouth to let them know who my son was. I was journaling this whole time and I still have a journal. Anytime I saw something that was just false, things making him look bad, I would write in my book the truth: who he really was, things he really did, aspirations that he had, things that he said to his brothers and sisters, how he was with them and how he made me a mother.
I noticed that you endorsed Hillary Clinton. Why do you have faith that she will be able to enact policies that will hold law enforcement accountable for killing unarmed blacks?
My faith is in the Lord. My faith is not restored in any man or woman, but my thing with Hillary was that her personal and private message to me meant more than her public message. She was the only one to reach out to me on several occasions, not for an endorsement, but for a conversation to know my concerns and to also know how she could help me. After her reaching out to me maybe four times … I’ll tell you, before I endorsed her, because I do like some of the things Bernie says, I chose to have a conversation with him. In that conversation, he did not let me know that he had anything to implement in his plan, as of that day when I spoke to him, [about] his police reform or criminal justice reform. I was ready to make a decision after that, and I did. I chose to endorse her, and that’s because she did show me a plan of action when it comes to my concern for police reform. She could’ve judged me and my son like a lot of other people, but she didn’t. And I won’t judge her. But I will hold her accountable for what she’s planning to do.
Let’s switch gears a little bit. I watched Lemonade the day that it came out and I had this feeling that I was going to cry. I just didn’t know about what. When I saw you and that one tear fall down your cheek, I wept so hard. What was it like to be in Beyoncé’s Lemonade and what do you hope that moment means to everyone?
Oh, wow. When I first met Beyoncé, it was in Baltimore, and I was so broken I wasn’t a crazed fan like, Ahhh, Beyoncé!
It was at the Prince concert last year, right?
It absolutely was. She didn’t come into my presence with that celebrity ego. I saw her heart. She is so sweet and down-to-earth. When I was called to do the video, I cried because I said, “She is who she is and she’s so big. She could’ve put anybody in there.” For her to think about me, it touched me. She had been very generous to me and my son’s foundation. At that point, I felt like whatever she wants me to do, I’ll do it. I actually got there a day late, but I got there. Anytime I’m looking at my son, I cry. I tried to hold it together but I couldn’t because this is real. This is my real life. I thought it was bold and courageous, and shows that although she is a big celebrity, she does know how it is to be a black woman, a mother, a daughter. [Cries.]
Do you still cry every day?
I don’t let everybody see me cry, but yeah, I do. I got my son’s pictures everywhere — in my house, in my car — and every time I look at one, it makes me cry.
Have you forgiven Darren Wilson?
No. No. Nope. I’ll never forgive him. No.
How do you hope Mike Brown’s legacy will be remembered?
It will be remembered best by his brothers and sisters, the ones that shared the most time with him. People he went to school with, people that taught him that knew his character. They’ll never forget him. I want people to read the book and learn about Michael Brown. I want them to feel what type of kid he was: an animal lover, such a granny’s boy, my firstborn.