One never imagines witnessing the killing of a loved one on national television. The world knows my brother as George Floyd. Strangers carried his picture as a beacon for change and shouted his last words in protest. I know deep down who my brother really was. To me, he was just Floyd.
He had a heart of gold, and like a true big brother, he was a protector, a friend, and someone who would be there till the end for our entire family. On Floyd’s last trip to my home in North Carolina, I left him with a specific list of assignments and chores that I wanted my kids to do by the time I got off work. When I got home, I saw that he — just like a typical uncle — had spoiled them and nothing got done. I couldn’t do anything but shake my head, but it showed his commitment to his family.
Sadly, I don’t have the opportunity to create new memories with Floyd, hear him laugh, or crack jokes. Now I’m focused on making sure the world never forgets him. While this journey has been a painful one, I’m turning my pain into purpose.
My brother would always say to me, “I’m for ya,” and it’s an honor to know that today — and for the rest of my life — I’m for him because he can’t be here. I’ve learned that my voice counts and I will use it for positive change. I knew I had to be able to speak freely about the trauma that my family and I faced without worrying about what others said. I found my voice and my purpose during one of the scariest moments of my life. Through my role as a community leader and activist, I empower others to understand and also become advocates for change.
I’d seen many Black Americans killed by police over the years, but it always seemed distant — until it’s at your front door. While I lost a brother, my sons (ages 7, 8, 11, and 13), who will grow up to become Black men, also lost an uncle. For Black Americans, our “talks” in living rooms aren’t just about the birds and bees, but about protecting ourselves against systemic racism and what to do if we’re ever stopped by police. This talk with my sons unfortunately comes with my brother’s real-life example. It’s also part of the reason I feel an extra sense of responsibility to rally for change. The work we do today will influence our society tomorrow, and I hope to one day live in a time when Black mothers and fathers won’t have to prepare our sons and daughters for a world that views our children as threats.