Names become synonymous with movements. A reminder, a rallying cry, an organizing moral force. Think Rosa Parks, Harvey Milk.
At Michael Brown Jr.'s funeral, Reverend Al Sharpton suggested that Michael should be remembered as the person who "made America deal with how we're going to police in the United States." When the teenager told his family that one day his name would be well known, certainly he imagined a different fate.
But, listening to the reverend, I wondered: What is in Michael Brown Jr.'s name that may indeed become synonymous with a movement against police brutality?
Michael has consistently been the most popular boys name for the last hundred years in the US. It means "gift from God." It also means "humble and poor." For Christians, Archangel Michael led an army against rebelling angels. He's the patron saint of soldiers.
There are 1.6 million people in the US with the surname Brown. It's the fourth most common last name in the country as a whole, the fifth most common among African Americans. The name's English origins are obvious, referring to hair, complexion, even a garment color.