Embracing the community-centered theme “Ubuntu,” a term from South Africa that loosely means “I am because we are,” family, friends and supporters gathered May 25-27, 2023 for the annual Rise & Remember celebration to honor George Floyd and uplift one another.
Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police continues to bring people together from across vast networks – and even oceans – to 38th and Chicago, and the same was true on the third anniversary of his death. The three-day celebration welcomed visitors, including Ndaba Mandela, grandson of South African President Nelson Mandela, to a candlelight vigil and festival at George Floyd Square, a conference and a gala at Paisley Park.
The vigil was a solemn occasion, its deep significance made apparent early in the evening when Minneapolis police, including Chief Brian O’Hara, paid a visit to the Square. In response, several hundred guests turned away from them and raised their fists in peaceful protest.
“If they was here for solidarity, why didn’t they stay”? asked one community member.
Once the program was underway, the evening’s emcee Rev. Jeanette Rupert encouraged people to come together in solidarity “to stand in the gaps so we don’t have more names on the street” – a reference to the names of lives taken at the hands of police that are painted in block letters along Chicago Ave. known as the “Mourning Passage.”
Music, including songs sung by Floyd’s aunt Laura Stevens, his uncle Ike Floyd and other performers, sounded throughout the Square. Vine Raynell delivered a powerful spoken word piece, and guests were invited to lay rose petals and place candles throughout the memorial. At dusk, the Brass Solidarity band led a procession to Say Their Names cemetery, where the Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Chorale and 29:11 International Exchange choir delivered a soulful tribute to Floyd, the community caretakers and the ongoing movement for justice and Black liberation.
The following evening a gala was held at Paisley Park to support the conservation work of the George Floyd Global Memorial (GFGM). Music included riveting performances by 29:11, Buddy McLain (Amir Locke’s dad), Ike Floyd, Julius Collins, Thomasina Petrus, Sounds of Blackness and Jamecia Bennett, and guests were treated to delicious hors d’oeuvres and desserts curated by Sean Sherman (the Sioux Chef) and Mecca Bos of the BIPOC Foodways Alliance.
As keynote speaker, Ndaba Mandela remarked on the United States’ refusal to apply the term “apartheid” to ourselves, despite Jim Crow and other laws in this country that literally segregated people by the color of their skin. He likened the system of apartheid that imprisoned his grandfather in South Africa with the system that caused the murder of George Floyd here in Minnesota – two people from two continents, with two different backgrounds, both victims of the same system of oppression.
Joy and healing
More than 100 volunteers helped with the celebration, which concluded on May 27 with a day-long festival at the Square that featured Black-owned businesses offering clothing, jewelry, plants, books and more.
On being part of the festival, Antoinette Mitchell of Splash of Royalty Designz said, “It’s a great way to honor [George Floyd] and come be together.”
The always-free clothing from the People’s Closet was available for people to browse and take. Makers and healers shared their services and wares in the self-care fair, with massages given free of charge throughout the day. And a team from Sidewalk Talk was on hand for anyone who wanted to talk.
“In this world we live in it’s about making connection,” said Sidewalk Talk’s Harry Adler. “We’re a group of listeners and we listen to whoever wants to share where they’re at in their journey, whether a journey based off being here or a journey in life in general.”
Art showed up in many forms. Some of the offerings preserved by GFGM were displayed on easels along the Mourning Passage. Harvest Best Academy showcased student art projects created through its conflict resolution program. One, an identity project, had students look into themselves and talk about roots, where emotions come from, and the lived experiences that contribute to their identities – both visible and non-visible.
“By doing these projects we learned how to communicate with ourselves and let us know what we’re feeling and experiencing, because we can’t really expect other people to if we don’t know how to process ourselves,” said Cassie Walker, the school’s student family liaison who was serving as a conflict resolution teacher for part of the year. “We’re learning how to process, we’re learning how to communicate, how to identify feelings.”
The Chicago Ave. Fire Arts Center (3749 Chicago Ave.) opened its doors for a GFGM rememory exhibit, Voices of the Unheard, which they are hosting through Aug. 19.
Two 24-foot expressionistic live public art pieces were also created outdoors throughout the day. Led by artist seangarrison, people were asked to recall their emotions and feelings the day George Floyd was killed and channel that emotion onto the canvas.
“The hope is to have younger kids come through and add the hope, the peace and the love, ‘cause it’ll be harder for them to process what they felt in that moment,” he said. “We do this for them… We have [some people] paint that heaviness – and these younger kids to paint what tomorrow looks like.”
Brass Solidarity and the Brooklyn Park Lions Drum & Dance team brought people together. So did speakers and musicians on the main stage, including Lewee Blaze and headliner Chubb Rock, who closed out the day by getting the crowd jumping with a medley of old-school hip hop classics.
GFGM hopes to create a permanent memorial and museum to house the more than 5,000 offerings that have been left by visitors to the Square. More information about GFGM is at georgefloydglobalmemorial.org.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here