By Eric Brooks
December 3, 2016
Memorial Service at Headquarters, Transport Workers Union Local 100, Brooklyn, New York
I am grateful to be here with all of you to celebrate the life of my friend of over thirty-seven years and my comrade, Mike Jerome.
Each of us is privileged to know the people in our lives through the specific lens of our shared interests and experiences; one of many views of a complex totality. Moments like these when we join together to celebrate a complex and full life like Mike’s remind me that I was able to share just a small part of the rich tapestry which was the full life that Mike led.
We shared young times together going to political meetings in the struggles that defined for me so much that bound Mike and I together; struggles for power for the disenfranchised and the oppressed. Before my now grown daughter was born, before Mike’s son Gabe was born, there were picket lines, nights in immigrant community centers listening to music and eating from covered dishes, getting arrested as two of millions world wide standing in solidarity with the people of South Africa against apartheid, and fighting to protect others involved in struggle like the Black Panthers and civil rights activists.
These were not sterile struggles; they were struggles full of warm connections with other people, particularly in the labor movement that meant so much to Mike and was central to both his politics and his life, and in the Marxist-Leninist, communist organizations that provided the concrete realization of the sometimes romantic, sometimes practical, but always deeply held beliefs that bound Mike and me, and Mike with many of you.
Mike did not separate the deep caring, the patience, the adventurousness that always amazed me (such as when he hiked across the country – something I was way too attached to warm beds to do), the commitment to individual development in himself and those he cared about — none of this was separate from his political internationalism, commitment to class struggle and to organizations like the World Federation of Trade Unions and the communist parties that comprise the world movement of intelligent, loving people fighting to end the exploitation and oppression that underlies capitalism, and to build socialism.
I was hanging out with Mike the night he met Gabe’s mother. I was with Mike the day decades later that he married his wonderful wife, partner and I believe soul mate, Elise. Those two events are indicative of the parallel journey he and I shared growing from boys to men, from men struggling to understand ourselves in relation to women and society, to mature men who (more so in Mike’s case maybe than my own) had resolved the challenges and contradictions of our youth to find the dynamic peace and rich social connections that come with maturity.
Mike enjoyed his life and we shared good times: hearing Fidel Castro speak in Harlem, exploring different cuisines reflective of New York’s diverse communities, bike riding in Prospect Park, walking on the beach on a quiet afternoon in Gary Indiana, changing the diapers of each other’s kids.
Mike was my lifelong friend, teacher, confidant, trusted challenger of my own and society’s contradictions, and my comrade. In the most real sense of the word he was my brother: my comrade in arms and brother in the enjoyment of life. I am grateful that the grief I feel on his loss is so deep because grief is proportional to the connection and warmth we had when he and I shared our lives.
Mike was a truly good person: mature and dynamic, young of heart and wise. I will miss my brother and comrade.
Michael Jerome, Presenté.