Today marks the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.
At some point last summer, black spray paint spelling out Floyd’s name appeared on the bricks of a building on the corner of Madison Avenue and North Avalon Street.
It surfaced over some of the most tumultuous and grief-drenched days following the killing of the 46-year-old Black father and musician, under Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee and the eyes of other Minneapolis officers.
If you saw what happened to him, as many did because of the viral video of his final horrific and painful minutes on this plane, you’ll likely never forget why hundreds of thousands of people across the world took to the streets to say his name, to call for justice. The anguish spilled onto Memphis streets, with days and days of protests and arrests.
His name on those bricks served as an austere everyday reminder to those zipping down the busy Midtown corridor.
Maybe people paused while pulling out of the Cash Saver parking lot or stepping out of the bar across the street. Floyd’s name, like Breonna Taylor’s, Ahmaud Arbery’s and countless others, testify to four centuries of subjugation, terror and injustice and how it looks in 2020.
The informal memorial remained as the buildings around it changed, part of a development emerging and dramatically changing the block’s landscape.
Three hundred and thirty two days after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, photographer Brandon Dill made a photograph at the Memphis corner. Twenty-four days later, Dill made another frame at the same spot after a cloak of black paint came to cover the walls.
MLK50: Justice Through Journalism invited poet Nubia Yasin to reflect on the anniversary in the context of these images. Below is her piece.
The weight of this past year Sits in the bottom of my gut Leaves little room for food The remembering swells in me Instance after instance of state sanctioned murder My friends, attacked and arrested at protests Pooling money for bail funds My folks in a heap Sitting in our Blackness Unable to make sense of it all We’re in a global pandemic, and these folks won’t stop killing us. The remembering is dreadful. And as I sit Bloated with all this memory Having no place to put it all No relief from the constant reminder That I can not protect my loved ones from the state I wonder what it must be like to be those who forget You can see the absence of memory in their faces You can hear it in their voices Tell it in the way they feel safe To be those people Who can see past the disruption of Black People and our ever-persistent pain Those people Who paint over what they don’t want to remember.
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.