George Floyd’s NC family members are working to keep his memory and the struggle for social reform alive

By: - June 1, 2022 12:00 pm

North Carolina family members of George Floyd are raising money to build a memorial center in Raleigh.

Two years after his death, efforts to raise funds for a memorial center in Raleigh continue

A neighbor remarked last week that the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, had quickly pushed the killings at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, off the front pages of most newspapers.

He concluded that the mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo, which resulted in 10 deaths, has already been forgotten amid the more recent killing of 19 elementary school children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

It’s worth mentioning that the alleged school shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, also shot and wounded 17 other people at the school and started the tragic day by shooting his grandmother in the forehead, severely wounding her and reigniting the nation’s long-running and fruitless gun-control debate.

I assured the neighbor that there is no media conspiracy to downplay the racially motivated killings in Buffalo. The Uvalde shooting, I offered, will also be old news in another two short weeks.

I hope that I’m wrong about that, but we’ll see.

Photo: Greg Childress

That brings me to a charity golf tournament in which I played last week at Lochmere Golf Club in Cary to raise money for the George Floyd Memorial Center planned for downtown Raleigh.

Remember George Floyd, the North Carolina native killed by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin?  Floyd’s death was captured on camera by an onlooker. The chilling video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck, squeezing the life from his 6-foot, 4-inch frame, became a rallying cry for police reform and validated Blacks’ claims that there is a wide disparity in the way police treat Black citizens when compared to the way whites are treated.

Floyd’s death has become etched into the consciousness of the nation. Chauvin’s trial became must-see TV. The disgraced police officer was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison.

Floyd’s family’s efforts to keep his memory alive and to foster “deeper understanding” among diverse communities have gotten less attention than Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s trial but are important and newsworthy.

This week marked the second anniversary of Floyd’s death, and local commemorations kicked off with a May 25 (Floyd was killed May 25, 2020) “Day of Enlightenment” that featured a Town Hall meeting with several local police chiefs, the charity golf tournament, and a virtual conference that focused on health, education and wealth building.

The family is fighting to ensure Floyd’s memory and sacrifice don’t become yesterday’s news.

“This is not about mourning, this is not about being sad, this not about being sorrowful or any of that,” Thomas McLaurin, Floyd’s cousin and CEO of the Center, told golfers at the charity tournament. “This is about taking that sadness and turning it into success; taking a tragedy and turning it into triumph.”

George Floyd’s cousin Thomas McLaurin – Photo: Greg Childress

McLaurin also emphasized that Floyd’s family is not on board with defunding the police, which some progressives have called for in the wake of Floyd’s death and other questionable police killings.

“What we are for is taking the funds that they do have to operate and maybe making some changes in their training policies, hiring policies or whatever it is they need to do to change the system,” he said.

I played in the tournament as the guest of a longtime friend. A stormy Friday delayed its start by nearly two hours, and the long Memorial Holiday weekend stole many potential participants who’d already made plans before being invited to play.

McLaurin, a Sampson County native who now lives in Atlanta, heard from many of his former East Carolina University football teammates who would have played but had made plans for the long weekend. He told me that the Center will plan better next year, and hopefully land a celebrity to help promote the tournament and the Center’s work.

The scant media attention was a little surprising given the coverage about Floyd’s death and the trial that followed, he said.

“My wife asked me the same thing,” McLaurin said when asked about the coverage. “I just do not have that answer other than we just didn’t get the word out to the right folks to get quality media coverage for that.”

The Center was established by Floyd’s North Carolina family to encourage personal growth, healing and emotional and financial prosperity for families, in addition to uniting communities. The money raised through the tournament will help build and staff the center and to pay for programming.

“What we hope to get out of this is; No. 1, the remembrance of George [Floyd], and the sacrifice of his life, which changed the world and caused a lot of people to take a look, and say wow, there really is a disparity in the way the police treat certain people,” McLaurin said. “It was a public lynching that the world saw.”

Roger Floyd, George Floyd’s uncle who lives in Raleigh is an officer at the Center. He told golfers Friday that the events that took place last week are the “just the beginning” of the family’s effort to make sure George Floyd’s death was not in vain.

I hope he’s right.

Click here to learn more about (and make financial contributions to) the George Floyd Memorial Center.

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.