How shall Integrity face Oppression? What shall Honesty do in the face of Deception, Decency in the face of Insult, Self-Defense before Blows? How shall Desert and Accomplishment meet Despising, Detraction, and Lies? What shall Virtue do to meet Brute Force? There are so many answers and so contradictory; and such differences for those on the one hand who meet questions similar to this once a year or once a decade, and those who face them hourly and daily.
― W. E. B. Dubois (1868-1963)
The Legacy of George Floyd – One Year Later
Spring 2020 was a time of fear. Everyone was terrified of Covid-19 and the many unknowns about the virus. How did it spread? What were the symptoms? How could we could keep our loved ones safe?
Then on May 25, while quarantined in our homes, we witnessed the murder of an African American man named George Floyd on the evening news, and we watched it repeatedly. For many Americans, emotions moved from fear to anger. How could a man making an everyday transaction at a local convenience store end up dead? Unfortunately, Black deaths over transgressions like this one were not new to the African American community, but this time other Americans saw it and could not turn away. Anger turned to activism, and communities around the world took to the streets.
The national and international attention to George Floyd’s murder made us hope that his death would not be in vain and that true systemic change would occur. Sadly, since Floyd’s death, more senseless deaths have occurred.
Yes, there have been changes – Diversity and inclusion training are being taught in universities and the American workplace, some racists are being held accountable, corporations have promised new more transparent hiring procedures that would add African Americans to leadership positions, TV shows and advertisers have hired people of color in record numbers and The Oscars are not quite so #OscarsSoWhite anymore. All of this is meaningful, but it must be more than a quick fix. Everyone needs an ally, but being a true ally goes deeper than the protests. To be a real ally, you need to be there for the hard work, the messy work, and the unpleasant conversations about race and racism. You need to turn the mirror inward and make the personal changes that will help make your community a better place.
Everyone has the power to effect change and fight inequality. The two most important things a person can do is to understand American race history and Speak Truth to Power. By understanding America’s history of racial hate crimes and the pervasiveness of systemic racism people can call out injustice when witnessing it. This is one positive way to keep George Floyd’s memory alive. Finally, each take 9 minutes and 29 seconds to remember George Floyd and the many Black Lives Lost to racial violence.
The Alexandria Black History Museum and Historic Alexandria are committed to witnessing and telling this history and Alexandria’s place within it. Over the last year, ABHM has been collecting donations from the community to document the activism that happened in the City and the surrounding area. Named as the Black Lives Remembered Collection, these items help to capture this moment in Alexandria’s history for the future. To coincide with the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, the Alexandria Black History Museum (ABHM) is launching a virtual exhibition called Preserving Their Names.
The online exhibit features images of objects and digital photographs from the new Black Lives Remembered Collection. It documents some of the public and personal ways the local community responded to the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
Preserving Their Names uses donated objects, digital photographs, artwork, poetry, and prose to document the public response at vigils, marches and through the vast array of signs and messaging that appeared across the area. It also shares the intimate, personal thoughts of the lives impacted by this national event in their own words.
If you want to become part of social justice initiatives, join the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project (ACRP) which is committed to educating Alexandria citizens about the city’s history of racial terror hate crimes.
Audrey P. Davis, Director, Alexandria Black History Museum
May 25, 2021
George Perry Floyd, Jr. (October 14, 1973 – May 25, 2020)
9 minutes and 29 seconds
Say His Name
George Floyd’s life mattered. His life story matters. His murder matters. He became part of a horrible trinity on May 25th when his killing came shortly after the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. This trinity is just the most recent example of America’s horrible legacy of racial terror deaths.
In a few weeks, these three deaths tragically highlight what many ignore and chose not to see – that racism is ingrained in American society. Technology permits individuals to document in real-time their life stories, and capture history in the making. For many, these videos share the best of our lives and the aspirational. For African Americans, technology gives us the ability to share our grim reality. The power of video permits many to see what African Americans have reported for generations - black and white lives do not have the same currency in America. For years, there have been too many videos of lives cut short for living while black. Many African Americans died before George Floyd and there have been others killed since his murder. It must stop now! As America and the world finally appear to be “woke” to the damage of systemic racism, museums and cultural institutions must lead the charge to make history more inclusive. Many museums have pledged to preserve the history of this moment so that Americans can learn from our mistakes. Cultural institutions are an important part of the greater catalyst for change in this country.
For centuries African American lives were not their own. Held in bondage, their labor and intellect were used to build this nation. Then these black bodies were jettisoned when no longer needed. Still, African Americans survived. They created a culture that infuses America with life today. Their contributions to science, literature, art, music, and foodways, ensure that each day Americans benefit from, enjoy, and have their lives made easier due to African American intellect and creativity. Today, Americans will not stand for more black lives jettisoned due to hate.
The Alexandria Black History Museum (ABHM) follows in the footsteps of sister museums related to African American history and culture. The ABHM values a history that has been ignored, distorted, and undervalued. The ABHM staff strives to give voice to the voiceless. We work to preserve what has been torn down, tossed aside and purposely destroyed. The ABHM is a safe and welcoming place to gather and Speak Truth to Power when the world moves backwards instead of forward.
Without early African American institutions, like the Hampton University Museum which opened in 1868, and hundreds of other African American museums, historical societies and organizations, we would have never reached September 2016, when the Smithsonian Institution opened the National Museum of African American History and Culture to the public. A National site that reminds the world every day that Black Lives Matter! No longer will African American history be in the words of Preservation Virginia …. suppressed, excluded, misrepresented and undervalued…All keepers of African American heritage pledge to forever say George Floyd’s name, preserve the history he represents, and educate the public about the millions of brilliant minds lost to hate in America.
George Floyd is one man. A man who ignited a movement. I can’t breathe...It is time for all of America to take a breath and fight in his memory. Fight to make this world a better place, so no African American ever has to plead - I can’t breathe!
Audrey P. Davis, Director, Alexandria Black History Museum
June 9, 2020
(Note: originally subtitled 8 minutes and 46 seconds, this statement was updated on May 25, 2021 to reflect the longer time as revealed in the trial.)