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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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George Floyd's relatives speak to UF about their fight for racial justice

Graphic of Black Lives Matter protest signs

Almost four months after George Floyd died at the hands of police, his relatives asked UF students to keep his legacy alive.

The Reitz Programming Board and the UF National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a free event over Zoom on Tuesday with Floyd’s aunt Angela Harrelson and uncle Selwyn Jones. The event was moderated by Nyle Fort, civil rights activist and a Princeton doctoral student.

Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 by an ex-police officer who knelt on his neck for over eight minutes

The speakers and moderator were paid $3,000 total from student activity and service fees through the Reitz Union, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email.

The event started off with more than 45 students. Those in attendance were not able to see each other’s faces but could send questions to the speakers by using the “Q&A” box. The Zoom meeting capacity was limited to 500 participants, according to the contract. 

The conversation began with a 30 minute speakers introduction where they shared about their family and relationship with Floyd. It was followed by a Q&A that lasted more than 40 minutes. 

It does not take everybody to make a change, but a strong, committed group of people who are willing to make it happen, Fort said. Racism is much bigger than police killings. It is also about the struggles of having access to health care, education, affordable housing and fair wages, he added.  

“If we want to end racism, we first have to understand what is racism,” Fort said.

Harrelson and Jones are Global Outcry 4Justice speakers, an advocacy group founded by Floyd’s family that fights for change in laws to help eliminate racism in the U.S., according to its website.

Harrelson was overwhelmed by Floyd’s death and people from across the country and around the world wanting to take actions about it, she said. She turned these feelings into activism to keep Floyd’s legacy alive and save the lives of others.

When Harrelson hears people who do not believe in racism and police brutality, she doesn’t try to convince them otherwise. She better uses her energy to encourage those who already believe in the cause to continue fighting, she said.

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Harrelson told UF students to make use of their voices and privileges, recognize their mistakes and make themselves accountable. 

“Tell your story,” Harrelson said. “Share your story with truth, with passion, with belief, and the right people you will draw.”

Jones lives in South Dakota and has been honoring his nephew’s death by leading protests since May 27 across the country, including in Texas, Minneapolis, Chicago and Wisconsin, he said. He was wearing a t-shirt with Floyd’s face at the Zoom event.

Jones doesn’t want Floyd’s death to be in vain. He said when he learned of Floyd’s killing, he thought of the many negative experiences he’s gone through because he is Black.

“I'm a little bit disappointed with and disturbed by how long this has been going on in life — systemic racism, prejudice, or hatred,” Jones said. 

At the event, he said that instead of focusing on how Floyd lived, he prefers talking about how his death has impacted and changed things. Jones has seen his nephew’s death as an opportunity to change people’s minds and hearts for good, he said.

People who do not feel any compassion about how Floyd died are part of the racial problem, not the solution, Jones said. 

“We want problem solvers,” Jones said. “We want to solve this problem with communication, love, peace and equality.”

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Aurora Martínez

Aurora Martínez is a journalism senior and the digital managing editor for The Alligator. When life gives her a break, she loves doing jigsaw puzzles, reading Modern Love stories and spending quality time with friends.


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