The legacy of George Floyd: More than a hashtag

screen capture of the 4 panelists during the webinar


or many, the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police endures as a powerful symbol of  social injustice.

On Tuesday night, nearly 450 viewers from the Quinnipiac community and beyond learned the story behind the symbol. They learned about Floyd’s life as a father, son, friend, nephew and human being.

The nearly 90-minute webinar, “Black Lives & The Legacy of George Floyd: A Conversation With His Family,” featured a dialogue with Angela Harrelson and Selwyn Jones, Floyd’s aunt and uncle.

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“This is a discussion about grief, love and social injustice, and all are welcome at the table,” said moderator Nyle Fort, an activist and minister. The event was co-sponsored by the Student Government Association, the Student Bar Association, the School of Medicine Student Government and the Graduate Student Council.

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Screen capture of Harrelson

Angela Harrelson

Harrelson and Jones painted a relatable, loving portrait of their late nephew. They spoke of an energetic little boy who rarely kept his shoes on, was never far from his mother’s hip and who routinely kept his family in stitches.

“We’d joke that he looked like Flip Wilson, the comedian, as a kid,” said Harrelson, referring to the 1970s entertainer.  

Harrelson and Jones discussed Floyd’s journey from his native North Carolina to Houston and his subsequent move to Minnesota. They described his struggles, his flaws and his remarkable capacity for kindness — a life that ended May 25 with a police officer’s knee on Floyd’s neck.

Harrelson recalled the dread and confusion she felt the next day when a news reporter called her home seeking a comment about Floyd’s death. “I thought they had the wrong family, and I hung up,” she said.

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But the TV coverage Harrelson later saw with Floyd calling out for his mother was real, and it brought her to her knees. The grief, the shock, it was all too much to absorb, Harrelson said.

For Jones, Floyd was more than a favorite nephew. He was a friend, someone who shared a love of family, football and good conversation across a table stacked with homemade food.

But then, after 8 minutes and 46 seconds face down on a Minneapolis street, Floyd was gone.

Screen capture of Jones

Selwyn Jones

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“I was dealt a hand nobody’d want to play that day, all because of what we’ve been battling for hundreds of years,” said Jones, who wore a T-shirt with his nephew’s face across the front.

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Screen capture of FOrt

Nyle Fort

When Fort asked Jones and Harrelson how they stay optimistic and hopeful that social change will happen this time, they directed their responses to the webinar’s Black viewers.

Hope, they explained, is part of their inheritance.

“Hope kept Black and Brown people surviving through the years, and that hope has been passed to us,” Harrelson said.

Jones sees hope in the support he has received from white people. He said that’s a clear sign that change is coming. He implored viewers of all backgrounds to be stewards of that change.

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“You are inheriting the world,” Jones said. “It has to start with you.”