By Cynthia Gibson
LEIMERT PARK — The family of George Floyd chose Leimert Park as the first stop in a national tour to launch the Floyd family’s nonprofit, A Soulful Heart Memorializing George Floyd, and thank the billions of supporters worldwide who “came forward during their time of grief.”
Family members and supporters held a press conference Oct. 8 to announce the new nonprofit organization which will commemorate the life and legacy of the 46-year old man whose murder by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020 sparked police protests across the nation and a call for civil rights reforms worldwide.
Selwyn Jones, Floyd’s uncle, said the nonprofit was created to raise awareness, reduce police killings and hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct. During the tour, which will cover other major cities such as Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia, Jones said the family also will push for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the U.S. Senate.
Reading from a prepared statement, Jones said that helping youth develop the skills, competency and resources they need to handle crisis more effectively also will be a major focus of the nonprofit’s work.
“We want to empower individuals to make positive decisions in their lives,” he said.
Although he said he has experienced racism, discrimination and disrespect throughout his life, Jones says it was the murder of his nephew that caused him to become an activist and pursue social justice and police reform.
“I want to make people understand that there is an opportunity to make change, to respect people for the content of their mind, their heart and their soul, not the color of their skin,” Jones said. “That’s the problem that we’ve had for 400 years.”
For the past 15 months, Jones has been spreading a message of anti-racism in numerous interviews, talk shows and podcasts. Jones has been successful in getting the police in Gettysburg, South Dakota, the city where he currently resides, to remove the Confederate flag from the badge on their uniforms.
Gentleman’s Quarterly featured Jones in its 220 Men of the Year Edition, which put the spotlight on men who are fathers or father figures of Black men who were the victims of police brutality.
During a kickoff for Black History Month, Jones gave a keynote speech to the South Dakota Mines’ chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, Mines Center for Inclusion and Hardrocker athletes.
In addition to launching the nonprofit, Jones will campaign for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (H.R. 1280), introduced by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles.
Among other things, the legislation would ban chokeholds, no-knock warrants and require that deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques first. The bill passed along party lines in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but has been blocked in the Senate.
Despite the stalemate for the legislation that bears his nephew’s name, Jones remains determined to push for its passage.
“I will not let his death be in vain,” Jones said. “I do not want my sons or anyone else to go through what my nephew endured for that 8 minutes 46 seconds. I want to be a beacon of light for those who face racism or adversity in this life.”
Floyd was placed under arrested for buying cigarettes with an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. He died after Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and back for almost nine minutes.
Chauvin was convicted of second and third degree murder in April 2021 and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison in June 2021.
Los Angeles civil rights activist Najee Ali hosted Floyd’s family at Community Build for the tour launch event. Ali has traveled several times to Minnesota to support the family following George Floyd’s death, and he said that Community Build CEO Robert Sausedo sponsored the trips.