Roger Floyd was impressed by his first visit to Minneapolis, specifically, George Floyd Square. “The unity, it’s just magnetic, from the standpoint that these individuals are committed because they truly are Black minds, Black hearts, and that creates a movement,” he said.
Roger Floyd was in town commemorating the murder of his nephew George Floyd, who was killed by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin three years ago last Thursday.
For the third anniversary of his murder, community members gathered to commemorate Ubuntu, or humanity in the Bantu language, by hosting a candlelight vigil on the evening of his murder; a two-day conference for community organizers; and a dinner at Paisley Park with performances by Ike Floyd, another uncle of George.
The commemoration culminated in a Saturday afternoon community fair of Black vendors and healers, centered around the square with performances throughout the day.
While the day of his murder and the days that followed were tense, the vigil and community festival were different. The vigil on May 25 consisted of spoken word, singing, music by Brass Solidarity, and a candlelight procession down to the Say Their Names Cemetery. There the Minnesota Orchestra performed an excerpt of “Brea(d)th,” commissioned by the orchestra in light of George Floyd’s murder to critique the treatment of Black people in the U.S. The performance was followed by an interpretive dance of a similar theme.
The community festival on Saturday struck a lighter if not more celebratory mood. Like Thursday, attendees were treated to music, but from a variety of performers, including Chubb Rock and a youth drumming brigade. Attendees were also invited to paint a community mural and had access to vendors, most of which are Black-owned businesses. Both were attended by close to 1,000 people.
Seangarrison, who refers to his name as a mononym, organized a community mural. “[The mural is intended to focus] around the people’s emotions and energy and vibe after enduring brother George Floyd’s murder,” said Seangarrison. “They can create with whatever they want; [if] they want to use a brick, that’s great, whatever they can find—whatever speaks to them in that moment, through anger, frustration, or [whatever] the case may be.”
The community event also featured self-care opportunities. One booth was set up by volunteers to offer listening ears to participants. Another booth, located at the southern end of the event, provided free masks to attendees.
A self-care section, sponsored by United Healthcare adjacent to Say Their Names Cemetery, was comprised of booths of mostly Black entrepreneurs who promoted holistic methods of self-care, such as acupuncture, bodywork, and sound bowls.
Chubb Rock made an appearance on stage towards the end of the event. He tried to get people to dance to songs such as “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang before changing up his songs. Eventually, people danced to songs such as “Brickhouse” by The Commodores and “All Night Long” by Mary Jane Girls.
South of 38th and Chicago, attendees were treated to free food courtesy of Pimento Relief Services, as well as a video game arcade inside a repurposed Metro Mobility bus and an air-conditioned cooling bus from the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, the public transit provider for western Dakota and northern Scott Counties.
Demetrius Burgess, a 17-year-old event volunteer, boarded the bus with his friends to stay cool. While onboard, Burgess talked about his desire to volunteer at the event. “It’s important to have people to rely on and you know, to just be there for each other and just to be there,” he said.
The sense of community and the need to get together was echoed by several other participants, including Latonya Reeves, who like Roger Floyd, made her first visit to George Floyd Square on Saturday. “I want to find ways to move forward. And this year, I finally felt like we are taking the steps to move forward and heal,” said Reeves as she sat with her friends on a table under a tent. “I see now after three years, we’re truly saying, celebrate him, celebrate his life.”
Not everyone was welcome at the square. During the vigil on Thursday, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara left while being heckled by other participants, with one woman accusing him of not communicating with them about something that happened to the woman’s family that Minneapolis police were supposedly involved with. Prior to that, however, O’Hara did have a moment of unity with an activist in which he raised his fist in solidarity. O’Hara’s predecessor, former Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, also attended the vigil.
As for the Minneapolis police involved with George Floyd’s murder three years ago, three of the four officers—Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane—have been convicted in federal and state court and are serving time. A fourth, Tou Thao, has already been convicted in federal court and is serving time in prison while he awaits state sentencing in August.