George Floyd’s death two years ago sparked a movement across the nation that can still be felt today. Amid a pandemic, people took to the streets to protest and speak for the Black lives whose voices have since been silenced. We watched and participated in protests, coming together by the thousands to support the Black Lives Matter movement. People held signs with quotes of Floyd’s last words and signs screaming for justice on behalf of George Floyd and others unjustly killed. George Floyd has become a symbol of unity, but our nation is still far from equal.
Although there has been some police reform and Derek Chauvin, the man responsible for killing Floyd is facing up to 25 years in prison, there is still a racial division that wreaks havoc across our country. On May 14th, Buffalo experienced the wrath of racial disparity when a white man opened fire at Tops, a grocery store, killing ten in a racially motivated mass shooting. Thirteen people were shot, and of those, eleven were Black, and two were white. All ten of the deceased were Black. Instances like this remind us of the privilege that lurks at every corner of our society. Even something as simple as going grocery shopping without worrying about being shot.
Similar to what happened after Floyd’s death, the community came together for a vigil before marching down Jefferson Avenue for a Black Lives Matter protest. It was a moment of unity amid a dark hour. Our nation's racial division doesn't end with mass shootings and violence.
Even our education system is embedded with racism; our children aren't immune to the impact of this racial divide. Critical race theory (CRT) has parents, teachers, and scholars alike divided on the role CRT should play within the classroom. In some states, schools are outlawing CRT altogether in favor of teaching history the way it has always been taught. At what cost is this to the student? Actions like this leave students, especially children, confused when books are banned because they don't conform to the norms within our society. Not to mention books build empathy, especially when our beliefs are challenged. Banning books only teaches kids that certain ideas are right and others are wrong, versus demonstrating how we can be inclusive. Banning books only creates more division.
Despite this division, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and countless others have reignited a fire within us. A fire to want to tear down racist symbols across our nation, to want to replace symbols that hold racist ties, to question the motives of others, and to move towards an equal future.
George Floyd’s legacy carries on. Although everyone has their unique perspective on what George Floyd means to them, his name is a reminder of a time in our history when we came together as activists. Similarly, we all have different ways of overcoming racial trauma and seeking activism. Buffalo survivor Zaire Goodman and his mother Zeneta Everhart are being active by collecting and distributing black history books across the community. Local community members who wish to purchase these books are encouraged to stop by Zawadi Books on Jefferson Avenue or Alice Ever After on Parkside. Books, specifically ones that talk about racism, can be powerful in educating our youth and jumpstarting important discussions.
Are you interested in discovering just how powerful books can be? Be sure to check out Ryan Parker and Justis Lopezes' picture book Happyvism which encourages readers to seek joy and happiness during these trying times as a mode of activism.