George Floyd Square revisited: 'Beauty for ashes' on 2nd anniversary of Floyd killing

Today the world will remember George Floyd, a Black man brutally murdered by white Minneapolis police officers. ✊

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“Beauty for ashes.”

When I visited George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a tall Black man at the greenhouse outside of the notorious Cup Foods chatted with us about the strength of our ancestors and the “generational trauma” carried by Black Americans. His voice, in the sanctity of the square, with Frankincense and Myrrh wafting in the air, had me spellbound.

George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 28, 2021. By Black Iowa News.

That was April 28, 2021. Today, I can’t remember every word he said, but visiting the square before it was somewhat dismantled and reopened to traffic changed me. That day, the closer I inched toward Cup Foods — the site where Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, brutally ending his life — my agony felt almost tangible. It floated in the air amid biblical scents.

Seeing Floyd — calling for his mother, pleading to breathe — ranks up there as the most devastating atrocity I’ve ever witnessed. That it occurred on cellphone video made it no less traumatic. Standing in the place it happened was surreal.

George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 28, 2021. By Black Iowa News.

Since May 25, 2020, the four white officers involved have had to answer for their roles in Floyd’s murder. All four were convicted of federal charges. Chauvin is serving 22 ½ years on the state sentence but is appealing. Thomas Lane took a plea deal from the state, and the state trial of the other two officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, is expected to begin next month.

George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 28, 2021. By Black Iowa News.

Today on the two-year anniversary, my thoughts keep returning to Floyd, the square and Chicago Avenue and E. 38th St. The site of unimaginable cruelty, yet I remember the bits of beauty nestled in the memorial. Tulips and teddy bears. Black fists and Black Lives Matter signs. The greenhouse caretaker.

Beauty for ashes.

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I miss the protesters who filled the nation’s streets in the aftermath. I miss the fists thrust into the air. I miss the demands and chants for justice. I miss it, because amid all of that sadness and rage, change felt as necessary as breathing.

I miss the square the way it was, because I don’t ever want this world to forget — or minimize — how white police officers stole the life of a Black man as he fought to breathe on a city street. How they showed him the coldest indifference.

George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 28, 2021. By Black Iowa News.

Racism persists today because far too many Americans don’t see Black men like Floyd (or any Black people) as human as themselves, and they remain indifferent to Blacks' plight in a country tarnished by its inequities. Blacks have always lived with the ever-present fear that our mere skin color will bring us harm from the police and others. Look at the white domestic terrorist who recently murdered 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

Is change possible?

President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order to advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices, including creating a national database of police misconduct among other measures, that will build public trust and strengthen public safety, according to a fact sheet released today by the White House.

"Police cannot fulfill their role to keep communities safe without public trust and confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system," the statement read. "Yet, there are places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken. To heal as a nation, we must acknowledge that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disproportionately involved Black and Brown people."

“There’s no better way to honor George Floyd’s legacy than for President Biden to take action by signing a police reform executive order,” tweeted Derrick Johnson, NAACP president on Tuesday.

George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 28, 2021. By Black Iowa News.

The George Floyd Memorial seen during a heavy snowstorm at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 22, 2022, as closing arguments in the trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with federal civil rights violations in George Floyd's death continues. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Two years later, the square doesn’t look the way I remember it. It’s open to traffic, and businesses have rebuilt. Last year, when the tall greenhouse caretaker in the black hat advised us to close our eyes and leave our pain in the square, that small request felt impossible.

The square is different now, but are Americans?

George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 28, 2021. By Black Iowa News.

Photo credit: All photos by Black Iowa News.

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