Black Lives Matter street mural painted outside George Floyd's former high school as remembrance continues



“Say his name”


In the city of Houston, the legacy of George Floyd the man is still being marked. On Sunday, his former high school, Jack Yates high school, unveiled a Black Lives Matter street mural spanning two blocks in honour of his life. It is not the first show of remembrance for George Floyd. His tragic death and the subsequent outpouring of grief spawned numerous memorials not only in the states of Minneapolis and Texas but further abroad too. From Belfast to Syria, an overwhelming sense of injustice and anger saw people unearth their own tangible ways of marking his death. 

For all the universal displays of affection, Sunday’s mural hit particularly close to home for his family.  

This means so much to my family and I know it means a lot to my uncle. Continue to stand with us, this is the beginning of a long fight – united together, stronger than ever." 

Bianca Floyd, niece of George Floyd

His sister described her sense of being 'overwhelmed' by the mural, which was created by the artist Jonah Elijah, with the aid of volunteers.

“I’m just overwhelmed today. I thank you all so much this is beautiful. The murals, the billboards, it's just amazing,” 

Latoya Floyd, George Floyd’s sister, at Sunday’s unveiling

The unveiling formed part of a larger ceremony that saw Elijah receive a special award for his efforts, from Texan congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee. Jackson also presented the family with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Broadly speaking, the police reform bill focuses on justice for his family, training for police officers in addition to reforming existing practices, and providing money to communities to help develop policing. 

Late last year, his sister, Bridgett Floyd, helped create “Be His Legacy,” – an internship program for Black male students interested in any of the areas of civic engagement, voter registration, education and justice, to PR, marketing, and even lobbying and fundraising. 

This is in addition to the scholarships made independently (but in his name) by Oakwood University, Missouri State University, and Ohio University to name a few.

Plans have also been made to build a memorial centre in his honour. The George Floyd Memorial Center which will be built in Raleigh, North Carolina, is described as an ambitious non-profit that plans to ‘develop a scholarship fund and Center focusing on education, training, advocating for justice and equality as well as a museum of urbanistic art.’

Here in the UK, the death of George Floyd reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and created the setting for broader discourse on colonial legacies, the UK’s relationship with race and how it continues to manifest itself today. These are crucial issues that must remain on the agenda in the nation’s search for betterment, and thankfully, the debate on how racial inequalities appear particularly within healthcare continues to take up airtime.

It’s important, however, that when revisiting the tragic events of last summer, George Floyd, his family and his passing remain at the centre of our thoughts. 

This is not to dictate how anyone approaches grief. We saw how his final words reverberated around the globe in the midst of a pandemic, and as mentioned at the beginning of this piece, people found their ways to expressing the pain from his murder. 

This is also not to say that the overarching issues of systemic racism and racism in policing should not be examined. They have (on this very platform) and must continue to be. Doing so informs everyone as to why Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd‘s neck that day and why Floyd is not alone in having been the victim of injustice at the hands of law enforcement. 

Nevertheless, at the heart of last year’s events was a man whose life was cut short. A man who was a son, a sibling and a Father of five. None of this should be forgotten, regardless of how important the implications of his death were. George Floyd, should not be used as a figurative lightning rod for us to project our frustrations at the failures of our governments (of which there have been many) onto. 

In the unlikely event that the message is lost on anyone, the death of George Floyd meant many things to many people - this is clear. We are still some months away from a year since his death, and the passing of that mark will surely see many discuss its significance within the wider context of 2020. Nevertheless, just as his family and the people of Houston continue to do, his legacy is arguably best remembered when keeping George Floyd front and centre, of all things George Floyd.

If you’re interested in learning more about the life of the man I’d recommend this article by Washington Post looking at his life. It's based on hundreds of documents and interviews with more than 150 people, including his siblings, extended family members, friends, colleagues, public officials and scholars. 

I’d also recommend some incredibly powerful anecdotes about his life from his memorial and this weekend's events

Mayowa Ayodele


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