A lot has happened locally, nationally and worldwide since George Floyd’s murder two years ago May 25. To commemorate the two-year observance of Floyd’s killing, the MSR last week gathered reflections from several local activists, community leaders, politicians, and others on what’s changed in the fight against systemic racism.
Following are their responses edited for clarity and space.
Bridgette Stewart of Agape Movement, a group of community members and activists who created “an autonomous zone” at 38th and Chicago, now known as George Floyd Square, expressed disappointment in the local corporate community that seems to have backed away from earlier pledges to support the Black community.
“On May 26 of 2020,” she said, “the day after George Floyd was murdered, [the corporations] came out and said that they were going to stand with the Black community and make sure that they had funding that was going to help small Black businesses. You just don’t see it.
“We now have on Chicago, from 38th to 37th, I think there are eight Black-owned businesses, but the business owners lease [the properties]… They don’t have the financial backing,” Stewart said.
WCCO Radio host Sheletta Brundidge noted that she still instructs her Black sons on how to respond if stopped by the police for any reason. “You do what they tell you to do,” she strongly advises them.
Bishop Richard Howell, pastor of Shiloh Temple International, said, “In all my years on this earth, I’ve never seen so much interest in people talking, especially in congregations. They want to discuss more about this—what we call racism in the church, as well as in the world.
“I think we’re moving forward, [but] in a slow pace,” said Howell. “Yes, I’ve seen some changes…[but] is that fast enough? Are things moving in the right direction?”
D.A. Bullock, community organizer and media artist, said, “I think a lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same or maybe even regressed. We had 44,000 people come out in this city and voted [last year] to go from a police department to a department of public safety.
“Even though it didn’t pass on the ballot, I think it is important that [there was] that amount of people supporting real change when it comes to public safety and how we put Black and Brown folks at risk in this city.”
Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights lawyer and activist, said, “I think May 25 of 2020 was a life-changing moment. We witnessed in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd a worldwide uprising calling for justice and accountability, as well as people feeling empowered to stand up and fight for change within their own communities.
“We have had some policy changes,” Levy Armstrong continued. “We have had some legislation that is watered down that has been passed since George Floyd was killed. We have not seen enough change fast enough.”
Tru Pettigrew, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx chief diversity and inclusion officer, said, “I think that one of the biggest changes is the level of awareness. We still have so much work to do. I think it’s now time to begin to hold people accountable for making smart actions that are going to address the inequities or the injustice.”
Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis City Council president, said, “The answer is no [not enough change]. But we did declare racism as a public health crisis. So, we’ve made a commitment to trying to undo racism.
“There’s still a lot of talk like [this] in Minneapolis forever, right? We know the problems—we talk about the sadness. We study the problems. We write reports,” said Jenkins.
Brundidge: “White people understand now what we’ve been talking about for decades. They see what we see… When George Floyd [was killed], everything that we have been telling White folks, everything that Black folks have been telling their White friends, co-workers, church members all these years…they see it now.”
Levy Armstrong: “One of the things that I think is a positive development is the fact that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights decided to investigate patterns of practices of discrimination within the Minneapolis Police Department, and they spent the last two years combing through 480,000 pages of material.
“They interviewed over 1,000 people and watched a lot of body camera footage to get their finger on the pulse of some of the underlying issues within the Minneapolis Police Department that the average person in the public might not have been aware of,” Levy Armstrong continued.
Bullock: “I think there still needs to be a reckoning around [the] Minneapolis Police Department. We see this kind of dribs and drabs coming out slowly. There still needs to be a reckoning in the police department, top to bottom. We as residents have to respond accordingly… We have to force a change that is from top to bottom, that is systemic.”
Howell: “I want to see greater gains in education, housing and health, mental health, and disparities that have been plaguing the people of color for years. I’m hoping that they can be expedited legislatively to bridge the gap of these disparities that really need immediate attention.”
Pettigrew: “The state of Minnesota continues to be among the worst in so many racial disparities in so many categories… We still have so much work to do. We can’t have organizations and institutions with leadership that does not look like the population that we’re trying to help making decisions without a representative voice as the very members of that population.”
Levy Armstrong: “I believe that the City needs to establish a truth and reconciliation commission that is comprised primarily of Black residents. That provides an opportunity for the City to begin to make amends and provide reparations to Black folks for the harm that they have caused and that they allowed to persist for so many years. I believe that those things are part of the next phases of our healing.”
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