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Black Men Speak about the impact of George Floyd’s Murder By Cassiette West-Williams

Mr. Floyd, 46, was an African American father of two daughters, one 22 years old and the other six years old. He had relocated to Minneapolis for a fresh start in life. 

After millions witnessed his death, suddenly Floyd’s international “family” would include brothers and sisters, marching in London, England. A Korean teen-bop band would raise more than $1 million for him. Africans and Latinos would join forces and demand for justice for Floyd. The Go Fund Me Campaign would have the highest contributions ever raised in its company’s history. Famous media stars and well-known preachers and clergy would fly in and say their goodbyes in three states–Minnesota, North Carolina, and Texas, where he would finally be laid to rest. However, the people keep praying, protesting, chanting slogans, and demanding that America change its ugly, racist, bigoted ways and allow Black men to live with dignity.

The following perspectives are from men who can relate to living as Black in America. They share their insight on the brutal murder and its impact on life in the United States as well as the perceived “Change” from Floyd’s death.

Richard Judge, from Newport News, VA but has lived in Minneapolis, MN for 35 years — (Caseworker for the state of Minnesota)

Richard Judge was working from home when he heard all of the cars, cops, and people around the corner from where he lives. “We are really tired of Black people dying and going through things with the police,” he said. “But today is a new day, and people are not going to take this #$^& anymore.”

“I live in the Powder Horn Park neighborhood, where George Floyd was killed. I am on 38th and 13th Street, and he was on 38th and Chicago, which is right around the corner. Our neighborhood is a melting pot of all races and people,” he said.

Judge said he participated in the first march for Floyd because he could relate to the police brutality that Floyd had experienced. He said about ten years ago, he and a business colleague went to look at houses and real estate. Someone called the police on them, and they were surrounded by four Minneapolis cops.

They were charged with loitering. He was angry, handcuffed, and felt hopeless, laying on the ground.

“We were on the ground in suits and dress shoes, pleading with the officers, who told us that they assumed we were trying to break into the houses,” Judge said. ” They did not want to hear anything we had to say. We were coming from work, dressed professionally. We had to take off from work, go to court, just to clear our names.”

Richard was one of the first people to start marching, but he said that the police shot hundreds of marchers with rubber bullets and used tear gas on the huge crowd. Right after that happened, the riots happened and destroyed Target, Foot Locker, Wendy’s, CVS drug store…all of our stuff was destroyed. I have to drive to an all white suburb to get my medicine in Bloomington,” he explained.

Judge said it will be a “new” start in his neighborhood. “More whites are coming and speaking out about the police. “There is no turning back now.” 

Rev. Marvin Hightower, Peoria, IL, President Peoria Branch NAACP and Pastor at Liberty Church of Peoria 

Organizing at the grassroots level is how Rev. Hightower plans to motivate the masses in Peoria County. The importance of local residents completing the 2020 census form and voting in the November presidential election cannot be overstated.

With the political climate nationally being on fire regarding George Floyd’s death, Hightower would like to see more involvement from Peorians who want to effect change in their own city. 

He believes that the civil unrest and protests in America and abroad put the needed pressure to confront the issue of police brutality.

Hightower said that he has participated in Zoom meetings with the National NAACP, and the thrust, from the National President and CEO Derrick Johnson early on was to mobilize the local units in phone call campaigns and writing the Minneapolis District Attorney to demand charges would be filed against the four police officers. However, the NAACP’s main focus is getting the vote out.

“I think that we have an opportunity to see changes in this country. Traditionally, law enforcement stands by the unwritten “blue code.”  The death of George Floyd gives us an opportunity for real change in America,” Hightower said.

Any direct action by local NAACP units are required to be cleared by the National organization. At this point, the National believes that the protest has put significant attention on the issue of police brutality. The local Peoria Branch will not be sponsoring any mass protest or marches.

Hightower restated that the main focus of the Peoria NAACP will be to increase voting participation, in order to make positive changes in our local, state, and federal governments. The local NAACP Branch has a membership of about 200 people.

Demario A. Boone, Peoria, IL, Chief of Police for Peoria Public Schools

“The George Floyd case has been the catalyst of change for police departments internationally,” said Chief Demario Boone. After the results from the second autopsy were released about Floyd’s death, he felt that the tide had turned for the good. The former police officer had pressed his knee on Floyd’s throat, causing him to die from strangulation.
The use of technology was noted, because a young teenager, 17 years-old, captured Floyd’s murder on her cell phone. People were able to view the footage internationally, which was a game-changer. That tape resulted in four arrests of city police officers with second degree charges.

“This is a permanent change… It will never go back to the same ole, same ole,” he said, noting how George Floyd died. “Like Will Smith said, Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” Floyd’s death was recorded. He believes people saw the tape and have marched to repeal the behavior and the cruel mindset.

Boone attributes the changes to the videotaped evidence that courageous people record of police officers in action. Boone points to the fact that chokeholds are against the law in Illinois and will be stopped very soon across all states that don’t have this restriction currently.  He believes that other changes will be coming.

“I know this incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Seeing protests from Minnesota, to London, and even in Iran. People are wanting change in policing and accountability,” said Boone. “There will be more new laws and general orders on the books that officers will have to follow.”

“Hearing from officers that I have known for years, expressing their need for change, is very encouraging. Something is different this time. Change is happening. And that’s a great thing,” said Boone.

Rev. Dr. Justin C. Kidd, a Minneapolis, MN native and now Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in East Chicago, IN

Pastor Kidd believes that there are positive and negative forces in our universe, but when it came to his hometown, most observers only looked at the good things that were happening in the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul. His childhood began on the same block George Floyd died on two weeks ago.

“I was born on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, MN. My grandmother’s house was on that Street. Some people have this conception that in Minneapolis, bad things don’t happen, and we don’t have racial issues, but the truth is we have our issues like any other city,” said Kidd.

Kidd’s grandfather migrated from Alabama to find better employment and living conditions. His grandfather was blessed to avoid the then segregationist and Governor George Wallace, who stood in the doorway of a university so Black scholars would not enter or be educated.

“Minnesota is different in that you don’t have people like George Wallace around, who will stop you from dating their daughters, but you do have people who will not let you rise to the top of their companies or allow for you to run the system. You can date their daughters, but you will not head anything in the cities,” said Kidd, who graduated from high school and college in Minneapolis. The glass ceiling and the quiet racism was something Pastor Kidd faced in the community.

He left Minneapolis after graduating from theology school, and his mentor influenced him to leave his old neighborhood and spread his wings in a new state. However, Kidd never lost touch with his home folks. He says change is coming in Minneapolis from the residents, politicians, and the church.

“Even the evangelicals have to call wrong, wrong, for those racist and heinous acts (by the police department). There was not a conviction with Mike Brown and Eric Gardner, but my faith tells me that they are going to make an example out of these men,” Kidd said. “It will not be business as usual anymore. The marchers are protesting, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.”

Cassiette West-Williams graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. There were three Black graduates in her class of 560 scholars. After graduation, she spent time learning her trade at the ABC-TV station and the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper, as an intern for both places. Unable to secure full-time employment as a novice news writer, she attended graduate school to earn a master’s in journalism. She had never had to endure or witness anything like this during her years as a young, city beat reporter, naively believing that the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul were color blind and culturally riveting. The Time, Morris Day, Andrea Simone, Jimmy Jam, Prince, and many other artists were her weekly highlights from a youthful period in her life. The rose-colored glasses have come off, and she now sees the twin cities years much differently.