“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” —James Baldwin
In the three years since the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, not much has changed at the intersection of Chicago and 38th Street. The memorial in front of Cup Foods (rebranded Unity Foods) at George Floyd Square (GFS) serves as an ever-present reminder of the tragedy. The wooden barricade next to the memorial, etched with unfamiliar and familiar names like Philando Castillo and Jamar Clark, along with the “Peoples way” mural across the street bear witness to the Black and Brown lives lost before and after George Floyd.
Occasionally, tour guides can be seen leading sightseers up Chicago towards GFS, nervously trying to navigate the site of Black trauma, all the while turning tragedy into commerce.
Recently, however, the Graves Foundation announced plans to redevelop the building across the street from GFS on Chicago, purchasing it for just over $1 million. City Council President Andrea Jenkins has asked the state legislature for $25 million to help develop the area.
Of those looking for an opportunity to educate visitors coming to GFS is KingDemetrius Pendleton, a long-time local activist and journalist, who wants to establish a nonprofit education and community center. “I’ve been boots on the ground covering local events before, during and after the death of George Floyd,” said Pendleton.
“The community is tight-knit. Members of the George Floyd Global Memorial Foundation, Agape, and other neighborhood groups are often on-site and have welcomed me and my team.
“The businesses that were able to hold on have struggled to do so,” Pendleton added. They need people to show up now and support them. New businesses also need financial help to get established in the abandoned storefronts in the area. There needs to be investment in the overall infrastructure such as improved lighting, fixing up the surrounding properties including the homes of neighbors, and a community-controlled memorial that honors George Floyd.”
Pendleton pointed to the millions raised in the wake of the tragedy. Instead of 38th and Chicago, he said Lake Street and other damaged areas were rebuilt, while those who suffered at the Square were largely overlooked.
“We don’t need people to only come to the Square when big events are happening or for photo ops,” Pendleton said. “We need politicians to pass the George Floyd Act and to provide practical solutions for both businesses and social issues in the neighborhood. That includes mental health services, treatment for chemical dependency, youth mentoring programs, training in the trades and other job services.”
“Personally,” he added, “I have been blessed to be part of the history of the Square. I will continue to uplift the stories of those who are part of it and hope to honor their legacy by being present at the Square full time.”
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