“A year ago, today I witnessed a murder. The victim’s name was George Floyd. Although this wasn’t the first time, I’ve seen a black man get killed at the hands of the police, this is the first time I witnessed it happen in front of me. Right in front of my eyes, a few feet away. I didn’t know this man from a can of paint, but I knew his life mattered. I knew that he was in pain. I knew that he was another black man in danger with no power. I was only 17 at the time, just a normal day for me walking my 9-year-old cousin to the corner store, not even prepared for what I was about to see, not even knowing my life was going to change on this exact day in those exact moments… it did. It changed me. It changed how I viewed life. It made me realize how dangerous it is to be Black in America. We shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around police officers, the same people that are supposed to protect and serve. We are looked at as thugs, animals, and criminals, all because of the color of our skin. Why are Black people the only ones viewed this way when every race has some type of wrongdoing? None of us are to judge. We are all human. I am 18 now and I still hold the weight and trauma of what I witnessed a year ago. It’s a little easier now, but I’m not who I used to be. A part of my childhood was taken from me. My 9-year-old cousin who witnessed the same thing I did got a part of her childhood taken from her. Having to up and leave because my home was no longer safe, waking up to reporters at my door, closing my eyes at night only to see a man who is brown like me, lifeless on the ground. I couldn’t sleep properly for weeks. I used to shake so bad at night my mom had to rock me to sleep. Hopping from hotel to hotel because we didn’t have a home and looking over our back every day in the process. Having panic and anxiety attacks every time I seen a police car, not knowing who to trust because a lot of people are evil with bad intentions. I hold that weight. A lot of people call me a hero even though I don’t see myself as one. I was just in the right place at the right time. Behind this smile, behind these awards, behind the publicity, I’m a girl trying to heal from something I am reminded of every day. Everyone talks about the girl who recorded George Floyd’s death, but to actually be her is a different story. Not only did this affect me, my family too. We all experienced change. My mom the most. I strive every day to be strong for her because she was strong for me when I couldn’t be strong for myself. Even though this was a traumatic life-changing experience for me, I’m proud of myself. If it weren’t for my video, the world wouldn’t have known the truth. I own that. My video didn’t save George Floyd, but it put his murderer away and off the streets. You can view George Floyd anyway you choose to view him, despite his past, because don’t we all have one? He was a loved one, someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s brother, and someone’s friend. We the people won’t take the blame, you won’t keep pointing fingers at us as if it’s our fault, as if we are criminals. I don’t think people understand how serious death is…that person is never coming back. These officers shouldn’t get to decide if someone gets to live or not. It’s time these officers start getting held accountable. Murdering people and abusing your power while doing it is not doing your job. It shouldn’t have to take people to actually go through something to understand it’s not ok. It’s called having a heart and understanding right from wrong. George Floyd, I can’t express enough how I wish things could have went different, but I want you to know you will always be in my heart. I’ll always remember this day because of you. May your soul rest in peace. May you rest in the most beautiful roses.”
I remember where I was a little over a year ago watching social media feeds of man lying on the ground saying words that have now become to familiar “I can’t breathe.” George Floyd may have left the world a year ago to day, but his legacy reverberates and will continue to remain long after my days on this earth are numbered. There is a healing necessary for all to have, critical if you are black or brown. George in uttering those familiar words meant that I even the air I breathe will be used for justice in his name. I woke up today looking at the labor of love that I have been engaged in the past 30 days. It’s an audacious task this desire in me to let people’s legacy live on and George is by far top of my list. For as long as I can breathe, my hope is for no black or brown boy or girl, woman or man, to ever say those words he uttered on that faithful day. And if they do, if we continue to fail the next generation of boys and girls, then as a group, as humanity, we are doomed. The work is fraught with difficulties, but I am committed to doing my part.
Yesterday was emotional. For once in a long time, accountability was given for humanity. George Floyd may have had a big heart, but it didn’t mean that those with small hearts prevail. And because of his big heart, something has got to give. Something has got to happen so that his death, even the justice given for what all our eyes saw, reverberates for generations to come. Generations will learn about George Floyd. Generations will hear what happened to him for 9 minutes and 26 seconds. Generations will know about the bouquet of humanity that saw a human being who deserved to live. Generations will learn their names, including the child who asked those sworn to protect us to get off him. Generations will learn how people marched, how people asked for justice for what just is, what eyes see every day. Generations too will be appalled about how a black man was murdered in broad day light with no impunity for humanity. Generations will see the pain in the eyes of black people who wonder everyday whether it’s out turn, our homes, our communities, our lives. Generations will never forget George Floyd. People may fear what they don’t understand, fear what looks different, fear even black skins, but that does not give you the right to murder us, to hate us, even when you can’t conquer us. They couldn’t conquer George Floyd because he lives and forever he will because of the accountability that began yesterday. You can hate us now, but because of George Floyd and the bouquet of humanity that stood by him, we will keep fighting for justice even from your hate and pray your small heart finds the love it needs.
Materials that absorb all light appear black to the eye. By definition, a black body is supposed to radiate light. Yet we failed these bodies with George Floyd, and the teenage girls, and everyone else that witnessed his killings. For them, and all black children, I fiercely want change. No young girl should have to witness another person die, someone that could have been her father, her brother, her uncle, someone that she still apologizes to, for not doing enough to save his life. For Darnella, and her bravery with recording an unthinkable act for eight minutes and 46 seconds, I desperately want change.
So I ask what would it take to bring change to our children? What if children, teenagers, black ones in particular, can come into bloom, like light, radiant with possibilities? What if their radiance can be transferred from one place to another, from one moment to another, from one child or teen to another? What if they decide how this transfer should occur, how to light the pathway so that all their brilliance can shine forth? What if there is an explicit focus on the role they can play in shaping the vision of their radiance? I imagine such a world is possible, if only we let children be light. I imagine such a transformation, a radical one, can come to fruition, if only children have a say in shaping their brilliance. I imagine that young people as creators or designers of innovations can lead to solutions that matter to them, if only we let them radiate all their possibilities. I imagine this world because it’s time for change. We have done deficit model work for too long. It has informed how we view our children, with black children, black girls in particular, seen as adults and not children before the age of 13. I am prepared to change that. I believe our children can have a future radiant with possibilities because we the adults stepped out of the way. They can and will design such a future if only we let them. I am dreaming here of course, but I believe that these dreams can be inspiration so I am leaving this here for the moment that I let my dreams become possibilities. We all have the capabilities to embrace a radiant future for our children, if only we let the light that is them, be them. By tapping into this radiance, I hope that I can join the chorus of people who truly mean what they say when they say enough is enough.