Today, we joined in solidarity with countless others mourning the loss of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in a blatant display of white supremacy and racist police violence. The video of his death, taken by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, ignited a global movement demanding accountability and a new vision for public safety that divests from policing and instead focuses on solutions that prioritize the safety, health and wellbeing of Black communities. A year after the death of George Floyd and the wave of protests that followed, we’re reflecting on the enduring power of Black organizing, why we must continue to say the names of Black women, girls and femmes killed by police, and the work that remains to be done to transform and remake institutions and systems so that justice and equity is real for all of us.
The Power and Legacy of Black Organizing
Nearly half (47%) of all protests in 2020 across the United States were associated with the movement for Black lives, spanning across all 50 states and DC. While systemic racism in policing sparked the uprisings, organizers called for broader radical change across all sectors, systems, and institutions.
- A recent analysis by Interrupting Criminalization finds that grassroots and advocacy groups won over $840 million in direct cuts in police departments and at least $160 million in additional funding for community services. Cities like Austin, Texas, reduced police funding and redirected funds for housing resources. Other cities like Denver, Colorado eliminated police officers from schools and saved money to use for other services.
- The national “racial reckoning” forced many organizations and corporations to acknowledge racial inequities in their workplaces and prompted statements and pledges to center antiracism moving forward, with some hiring racial justice consultants to take more meaningful steps to transform their internal practices and culture. Far too many however, have engaged in performative messaging and have yet to back their statements with substantial action and the transparency needed for accountability.
- Black organizers in 2020 had a tremendous impact on the 2020 election–repudiating the racism of the Trump administration and electing the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia since 1992 and the first woman and first Black and South Asian woman elected as vice president.
- Last year’s uprisings also sparked a wave of global protests exposing the far-reaching facets of anti-Blackness across the world.
Racism and Sexism Erases the Lives (and Deaths) of Black Women, Girls, and Femmes
Weeks prior to George Floyd’s death, Breonna Taylor was murdered by police in her home. Although Breonna Taylor’s life and death would eventually receive national attention in the wake of last summer’s uprisings, coverage was initially limited.
- The uneven pattern of advocacy and mainstream national attention is rooted in long-standing narratives about who experiences police violence and the context in which these events occur, such that cases involving Black women – Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor and most recently Ma’Khia Bryant – are less likely to spark massive protests and ongoing media coverage. This invisibility of Black women as victims leaves them particularly vulnerable and unprotected from police violence.
- The #SayHerName campaign, among others, have been advocating for an intersectional analysis of police brutality that also centers Black women and girls, transgender and cisgender, along with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people in conversations to end police violence.
Organizing is Pushing Us to Imagine New Possibilities
While there have been important changes locally, for example, to city budgets–organizers and communities across the country are calling for bolder, more transformative approaches that push past current boundaries of what many see as possible.
- It is clear that the death of George Floyd was a catalyst for change in ways unimaginable just years before. More people than ever have been introduced to abolitionist strategies that seek to reduce the need for policing altogether by building systems that center equity, liberation and collective care.
- The Breathe Act, offered by the Movement for Black Lives, offers a holistic path towards a vision for community safety and comprehensive investment in building the systems that support healthy, equitable and sustainable communities.
- Black-led organizations are leading the way and are often underfunded. You can support the Movement for Black Lives fund to support organizations building power at the local, state and national levels, here.
Today offers an important moment of reflection and opportunity to honor George Floyd’s life by recommitting to racial justice. The fight continues and since last summer, significant groundwork has been paved for a future that honors the fullness of all Black lives.