Honoring Black Lives

Photo of George Floyd Mural by Lorie Shaull from Flickr. The mural, located on the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue South in Minneapolis, is the work of artists Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McLain. The group started working on the mural on Thursday morning and finished it within 12 hours with the help of artists Niko Alexander and Pablo Hernandez.

On Memorial Day, George Floyd was killed by a police officer.  His death, along with the deaths of countless others, have fueled the social justice movement, Black Lives Matter.  Today we take a moment to see who 3 of these people were-these black lives who were taken from the world by police brutality and racism.  

George Floyd

October 14, 1973-May 25, 2020

Who He Was

Catalogued in numerous interviews in the media, are friends, family members, coworkers, and coaches, describing George Floyd as a wonderful man.  He had many nicknames. He went by “Gentle Giant,” “Floyd,” “Big Floyd,” and “My Twin.”  The last name was from former NBA player, Stephen Jackson.  Quoted by CNN, Jackson said, “The difference between me and bro was I had more opportunity than he did.”  Jackson said he and Floyd had a 21 plus year relationship. 

Floyd grew up in Houston.  An athlete in high school, Floyd played both football and basketball.  After high school, he played basketball for South Florida State College in Avon Park, Florida.  To CNN, Gloria Walker, the wife of Floyd’s basketball coach, said Floyd was fun to be around.  “He was never one that tried to blame others for his own mistakes,” she said. “He always owned up to them and always tried to do better.”

George Floyd moved to Minnesota to start over.  He had served time in prison and was looking for a fresh start.  He found work in Minneapolis as a truck driver and security guard at Conga Latin Bistro.  His boss there, Jovanni Thunstrom, remarked that all of his employees and customers had an affection for Floyd. 

The family of George Floyd can be seen speaking with Don Lemon while holding a framed picture of their lost son.  “Knowing my brother is to love my brother,” said George’s brother, Philonise Floyd.  George Floyd left behind two daughters. 

How He Died

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 dollar bill at a Cub Foods store.  3 police officers pinned Floyd face down on the street.  One officer knelt with his knee on Floyd’s neck.  The criminal complaint against the police officer (Derek Chauvin), claimed Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.  Floyd died while in police custody.  He was 46.

Breonna Taylor

June 5, 1993-March 13, 2020

Who She Was

Breonna Taylor was an award-winning emergency room technician for the city of Louisville, Kentucky. She worked two jobs, serving full-time at the University of Louisville Jewish Hospital and filling in as needed for Norton Healthcare. When the pandemic hit in March, 2020, she was 26 years old and already experienced in saving lives. Taylor lived with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. She looked forward to one day becoming a nurse, to buying a house, to starting a family.

How She Died

On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment by the police. 

On June 4, in an NPR interview—aired one day before what would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday, Taylor’s aunt Bianca Austin told host Ari Shapiro, Breonna “always had a caring heart. It was just in her nature to just take care of people….If this can happen to Breonna, it can happen to anybody.”

Ahmaud Arbery

May 8, 1994-February 23, 2020

Who He Was

Ahmaud Arbery loved sports. As a young boy, he played Pee-Wee football. In high school, he became a star and a leader. Slender, not built like the other football players, he won his place with his speed and won their respect with his kindness and humor. In an Associated Press article, his former coach Jason Vaughn describes Arbery as the kind of student it’s “hard to get mad at because you love them so much….He was undersized but his heart was huge.”

After graduating from Brunswick High School in 2012, Arbery struggled to find his way. His dreams of becoming an NFL player didn’t pan out; no recruiters called. He attended South Georgia Technical College for a year and a half, but money was tight and he took leave from school. He got into some trouble with the law. In 2013, he brought a gun onto the high school campus and was put on probation for five years. In 2017, he was arrested for shoplifting; his probation was extended. He turned to his family for support—he was the baby of the family, had always stayed close to home and still lived in the family house. He worked at his father’s carwash and in his father’s landscaping business. He made plans to return to college, to train as an electrician.

And he held onto his athlete’s discipline. He shot hoops with his friends. He turned his garage into a gym. He trained as a boxer.  

And he ran. He jogged through his Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood, every day, even on bad days, no matter the weather. His probation now nearly over, he was poised for a new start.

How He Died

On February 23, 2020, Arbery’s mom told him she loved him as he set out on his daily jog.  While running not far from his home, he was hunted, shot and killed by two white gunmen. A third man recorded the attack.

Others Who Have Fallen to Racial Injustice

It’s a gruesome parade that never ends, said The New York Times.  Before George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, there were Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Philando Castile-“black Americans brutalized or killed by law enforcement officers, who rarely if ever face consequences.”