The time since Memorial Day has been tragic, heartbreaking and sadly, reaffirming – reaffirming of our lack of progress toward racial justice.
On the evening of May 25, George Floyd was murdered while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. He was just 46 years old, a father, a son, a brother, a fiancé and a member of our community. Moments like this offer striking clarity and bring to the forefront why YWCA Minneapolis’ mission to eliminate racism is ever more crucial.
We have seen tragedies like this before. Unfortunately, George Floyd is just one of countless other black lives lost to police violence, including that of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile. These incidents leave us feeling overwhelmed, saddened, angry and often stuck on how to take action.
However, we cannot let this moment and our motivation to create positive change pass. In all things, I ask myself how those I most admire would judge my actions and our progress as a community. For me, those leaders are Sen. Paul Wellstone, my father, my pastor, my God, Khadar Abdulahi (the first young person I worked with who was murdered) and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Now I fear they would weep at what has occurred in our community. Minneapolis police officers who are responsible for public safety and stood by while George Floyd died at their hands acted as judge, jury and executioners as they pinned him to the ground with one’s knee on his windpipe – for some 10 minutes – as he pleaded for his life until he died.
Protests ensued and are occurring daily as a way to bring awareness to the racial injustice experienced by black people every day and to demand that these officers are held accountable. Unfortunately, these calls for justice have also led to destruction. While I don’t condone looting, burning and destroying property, I do understand the anger and frustration many are experiencing and how people can resort to calamitous behavior when they have been completely stripped of any power and any voice.
Today we have debris, boarded-up buildings and a grief-stricken community. Many in our community, particularly the immediate community around YWCA Midtown, are angry and fed up. But they are also now completely lacking access to grocery stores and basic supplies.
We must dismantle systemic racism
As a community, we must work to dismantle the systemic racism embedded in our nation that allows these tragedies to continue. We must work toward racial justice. And we must work in partnership with others to hold our elected officials and law enforcement accountable.
YWCA Minneapolis remains dedicated to its mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. We are responding in multiple ways to support our community:
- We are partnering with YWCA St. Paul to co-host community healing conversations about racism;
- We are working with multiple partners to leverage our Midtown location as a resource for basic essentials for the immediate community; and
- We are partnering with YWCA USA and YWCA St. Paul to issue public statements condemning the police murder of George Floyd.
Take positive action
How can you take positive action? Call your elected officials to ensure that a proper investigation and trial for George Floyd’s murder takes place. Support local agencies working to offer alternatives to policing and practitioners who are committed to the healing of historically oppressed communities. Support local businesses owned by African-Americans and people of color.
Strengthen your connection with YWCA Minneapolis. Get involved to advance our Racial Justice and Public Policy work and bring us into your space to help facilitate difficult conversations about racism and actions we can take to combat it. And remember to take time to process horrific events like this. Practice healing and self-care to ensure your personal well-being.
Racism is alive and well in our community. Our hearts go out to George Floyd’s family. He had dreams, hopes and plans, just like all of us. He deserved more, he deserved better.
We stand in solidarity with our community. Thank you for standing with us.
Michelle Basham, MPA/ESQ, is the president and CEO of YWCA Minneapolis.
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