Floyd’s family share memories, reflect on his legacy as one year anniversary of his death approaches

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The whole world learned George Floyd’s name following Memorial Day of 2020. His death led to calls for racial justice, equality and police reform in the Twin Cities, the nation and overseas.

As the public processed its pain, Floyd’s family grieved the unimaginable loss.

“If you knew him, you called him Perry,” said Selwyn Jones, remembering his nephew. “He always had a smile, everything was met with a smile.”

Jones carries his nephew’s memory with him every day.

“It was just such a pleasure to know this young man his whole life and to see the smile that he brought to many a faces,” he said.

Nearly a year after his death, Floyd’s loved ones hope he’ll be remembered for bringing people of all walks of life together to fight for a common cause.

“The whole world came together at once because of one simple country guy that was in the wrong place in the wrong time,” Jones said.

Floyd was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina but spent much of his life in Houston. He was a star athlete, finding success on the basketball court and football field.

In 2014, Floyd moved to Minnesota for a fresh start. He was 46 years old when he went to Cup Foods on May 25, 2020.

“I live every day of my life seeing my nephew’s eyes, seeing his face, feeling the pain, feeling the torture,” Jones said. “I also feel the torture of every Black person, every person that has a tan, that has ever lived in a situation to have to negotiate every part of our life.”

Over the last year, he has turned his pain into purpose. Jones has traveled to at least 40 states advocating for change.

“My man gave me an opportunity that we haven’t had probably ever in our lifetime – he gave me an opportunity to open eyes, open hearts, to not make this is a horror story,” Jones said. “Where there’s bad, there’s always good.”

He calls Floyd’s death the most horrific thing he’s seen in his life. The video, shot by Minneapolis teenager Darnella Frazier on her cell phone, helped the jury reach a guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin.

Families who lost loved ones in police use-of-force incidents share thoughts of what’s happened since Floyd death

“We had to watch him die,” Jones said. “It affected everybody that had a heart around the whole world.”

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020 and again in 2021. Jones has advocated for the legislation, which would end qualified immunity for police officers. He sees that as a priority.

Qualified immunity gives officers protections in certain lawsuits.

“We’ve got to address racial profiling, we’ve got to address how the cops are governed,” he said. “We’ve got to fix this whole thing, this whole spectrum and have everybody see each other as a human being.”

Jones told KSTP that above all he wants people to treat one another with respect.

Monday, marked a virtual day of action in memory of Floyd. Communities were urged to call their Senators to pass the police reform legislation.

The event was organized in part by the George Floyd Memorial Foundation.

“I really thought that my brother’s death would be the last police brutality case but as we all can see they are at it again and again and again,’ said Bridgett Floyd, his sister.

She and other family members created the foundation in the wake of Floyd’s death to address racial inequities and police violence. The foundation advocates for change and also provides scholarships, including for law students.

“This comes from my heart, deep down inside my heart because I know for a fact that my brother would do it for me,” Bridgett Floyd said.

She told reporters her faith and her family gives her strength as the one-year anniversary of her brother’s death approaches.

“I think about how I have young Black kids and how I do not want them to end up being one of these victims,” she said. “I go and do what I have to do so the world can hear me, so the world can hear what Derek [Chauvin] did to my brother, what he took from us. By me looking at my kids every day being Black kids, I have no choice but to continue this fight.”

It’s a fight thousands of people from all over the world have joined, unable and unwilling to forget what happened at 38th and Chicago, which is now named George Floyd Square.

“I hope that they are realizing that that would be a special place forever,” Bridgett Floyd said. “He should still be here. They should be able to see him, walk with him, talk with him. But instead, they have to visit a street just to see the love everybody is showing him.”

On Tuesday, family members will celebrate George Floyd’s life. There are several events planned in the Twin Cities for the community.