MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On the day that marks George Floyd’s death, Minnesotans celebrated his life with events around Minneapolis and beyond.
“Rise and Remember,” a celebration of Floyd’s life, was held Tuesday at George Floyd Square at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where he was murdered. All around the square, live music was playing, people were creating artwork, and brick-and-mortar restaurants were giving out meals for free.
It was similar to the energy felt in the immediate weeks following Floyd’s death last summer, when people came felt called to gather together, reflect and feel positivity amidst a turbulent time. Later in the evening, people placed candles around the intersection, illuminating the square.
But between the family atmosphere was also the somber reminder of why the intersection has become hallowed ground. For those visiting the site, like Dante Fornizy, it was important that they not forget that Floyd was killed there a year ago.
“It’s for sure hard to reconcile that, to celebrate both his life and be mindful that this has been a tragedy. But also I believe that people showing up and showing joy in the face of tragedy is the best thing we can do,” Fornizy said.
He went on to say that being positive is a way to subvert the expected emotion over Floyd’s killing at the hands of police, whether that be sadness or anger.
Mesfin Negia brought his three kids to the square, just like he did last May.
“Being a part of the movement is why we are here,” Negia said. “George Floyd means change for me, and also for my kids’ future.”
And while the anniversary is mostly celebratory, what’s behind why people are here on this day, like Jordan Strickland, carries a lot of weight.
“Today is real emotional for me,” Strickland said. “George Floyd to me could be any one of us, and that’s why I’m so proud because I feel good that my city really stood up and did a lot of things that’s never happened across this nation.”
One year later, people say the future starts at George Floyd Square.
People from all walks of life also came together in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday to celebrate Floyd’s life. The crowd gathered in The Commons outside U.S. Bank Stadium, which ebbed and flowed all afternoon during the six-hour event that included music, food, inflatables for kids and art.
At noontime, people were continually arriving at the green space, as several relatives of victims of high-profile police violence spoke, including Trayvon Martin’s mother and Jacob Blake’s father.
Bridgett Floyd, George’s sister, led a moment of silence at 1 p.m., in which Gov. Tim Walz called on Minnesotans to honor Floyd for the length of time he was held down by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin: nine minutes and 29 seconds. Butterflies were then released to coincide with the observance.
Bridgett told WCCO there’s still a mission to be accomplished.
“The reason why I’m doing this is because I know without a shadow of a doubt that my brother would do it for me,” she said. “That’s what keeps me going.”
She wanted to remember George Floyd the man, not only George Floyd the symbol.
“He had a heart of gold,” Bridgett said. “He would give his shirt off his back to a stranger. I want people to know the real person he was, not the rumors they’re hearing.”
Volunteers with the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, including Venesia Prendegast, say the event was intended to have a feeling of festivity.
“We have food trucks. We have a health and wellness center,” Prendegast said. “The idea was for it to be inclusive for everyone in the community to come out and be able to benefit from it.”
She says the event celebrates the progress made over the last year, while also acknowledging that more work is needed.
“I definitely think we’ve grown in solidarity, but there’s a long way to go,” Prendegast said.
Rickell Kimble stumbled upon the celebration by chance. She expected a positive gathering while still being mindful of work that needs to be done. For Kimble, it starts with police being retrained and regaining the community’s trust.
“I have a 5-year-old kid and he’s like, ‘Mom I don’t like the police because of what’s going on,’” Kimble said. “They shouldn’t have to feel like that.”
Bridgett Floyd said she wasn’t in Washington D.C. with the rest of her family because President Joe Biden broke his promise to have the police reform bill passed by the anniversary. Biden said Tuesday he hopes to get the bill out of the Senate and onto his desk quickly.
Floyd, a Black man and father, died on May 25, 2020, during an arrest outside a south Minneapolis corner store. Former officer Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes as he pleaded for air. Bystander video of the fatal arrest sparked protests, riots and a national conversation on systemic racism and police brutality.
Last month, Chauvin was found guilty of murder. He has yet to be sentenced. Three other former Minneapolis officers are also facing charges in Floyd’s death.
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Author: WCCO | CBS Minnesota