On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department when now former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. There were three other officers involved. The death of George Floyd, one of multiple incidents of unarmed black men and women killed by the police, sparked an uprising and civil unrest in Minneapolis and in many cities all over the world. People are putting pressure on police departments and politicians to listen to the diverse voices of community members and reconsider the ways in which we think about and practice public safety with racial justice and equity in view.
Justice Resolution 001
On August 6, 2020, a small group of community leaders were informed that the City of Minneapolis intended to begin a phased reopening of E 38th Street on Monday, August 17, 2020. In response to this news, several community members articulated what they would need from the City of Minneapolis prior to the streets reopening in response to Council Vice President Andrea Jenkin’s question to the community, “What does justice look like?” To respond urgently to the intent of the City to reopen the barricades, Jeanelle Austin and neighbor Marcia Howard transcribed the request of community members into what is now known as Justice Resolution 001. This document and it’s addendum written on August 12, 2020, outline ways in which several community members believe the City needs to begin making restitution to the community for the injustice death of George Floyd by a City employee on their streets.
Why is Racial Agency Initiative responding in Minneapolis?
Jeanelle Austin, founder of RAI, was born and raised less than a quarter-mile away from the location where George Floyd died. Her mother still lives in the same house, and her brother bought the house right next-door for his family. On May 28th, as the civil unrest escalated, Jeanelle actively fed her family information on how to respond and help their neighbors navigate this moment well. She pulled from a wealth of resources including close friends, lessons learned from past uprisings, and personal protest experience. That day, here sister called and asked her to return home and help. Jeanelle was hesitant to show up in Minneapolis without being a local resident. However, her sister texted her a list of ways the work of Racial Agency Initiative and Jeanelle’s skill sets could be far more useful on the ground in Minneapolis then as remote support. Jeanelle bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis, knowing that responding to and supporting justified civil unrest and rebuilding will take time.
Donations, Spending, and Volunteering
Before leaving Austin, Texas, Jeanelle’s friends began giving to support the work she was going to do on the ground. Knowing that the stores in her family’s neighborhood were closed due to the fires and looting, Jeanelle made initial purchases for protesting supplies in Texas, checking them on the plane. She purchased things like hardhats to protect against rubber bullets or tear cans flying in the air, gloves for people to protect themselves when picking up chemical cans, goggles for people to protect themselves against tear gas, umbrellas for people to protect themselves against airborne objects, milk of magnesia to treat those who have been teargas, a first aid kit for any injuries, extra face masks to distribute widely, and other things to support protesters. She was intentional to use funds to meet the needs of protesters in areas they might not have thought about prior to joining the protest.
On the night of May 30th, the George Floyd Memorial was raided by the National Guard. On May 31st, a semi-truck drove into a crowd of protesters with whom she was marching. After these events, Jeanelle decided to tend to the memorial as part of her own self-care. She used portions of donated funds to care for what is now named George Floyd Square. She purchased recycling bins, garbage bags, broom and dust pan, trash cans for hot coals, and many other supplies for the community members showing up to be present for each other and the hundreds of visitors daily. A portion of the funds were used to purchase supplies for the George Floyd Community Medical Station and its volunteer doctors and nurses. The medical station not only serves the visitors to George Floyd Square, it also serves local community members who show up in need of immediate medical attention.
Jeanelle volunteers 15-20 hours per week in effort to help the neighborhoods work toward racial justice. To support her work (and that of other protesters), Full Cycle Bike Shop donated a bike, which can be returned after she no longer needs it. In collaboration with other neighbors, community members, and volunteers, Jeanelle has facilitated the group of morning memorial community caretakers who volunteer to tend to the memorial. Their volunteer work includes taking plastic off of flowers laid at the memorial to prevent them from rotting and molding; tending to potted plants; identifying weather-damaged signs to be temporarily transferred to the Pillsbury House where space has been lended to the community efforts of sign preservation and memorial restoration (pictured below); cleaning the streets; composting dead flowers and plants; changing garbage bags; sweeping up broken glass; welcoming visitors; being present with people who are grieving; and being witnesses of the gifts that people from across the city, state, nation, and world have left in honor of George Floyd.
Morning Memorial Community Caretaker Guidelines:
1) Everything is somebody’s offering. Throw nothing away.
2) The people are more sacred than the memorial.
3) If you see a flower molded or rotten, please dispose of it for public health reasons. (Molded signs can be set aside for a preservation process.)
4) Get a second opinion. When in doubt, just ask.
5) Come when you can and stay for as long as you can. Your contribution, however long or short, is welcome.
6) Wear gloves. You can bring your own, or disposable gloves are available.
7) People are grieving, hold space for their grief.
|Donation Spending Category||Amount||% of Donations|
|George Floyd Square Caretaking||$1,834.63||21%|
|612 M*A*S*H* (GFS Medical Tent)||$1,374.19||15.5%|
|Community Trauma Healing||$2,563.63||29%|
|Direct Community Member Support||$561.56||6%|
The Restorative Wellness Response Project held its first Self-Care Fair on Saturday, July 25th. The team is planning on smaller back-yard pop-ups that will continue self-care education in small groups of 8 friends. A second self-care fair is scheduled for Saturday, September 26, 2020. The project and subsequent fair has emerged out of the collaboration with Northwestern Health and Sciences University, Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, and other practitioners to support the pursuit of racial justice with holistic health and wellbeing practices. The Restorative Wellness Response Project “is a body reclamation project that addresses embodied trauma and promotes self-care as a healthy form of resistance to injustice.” The Self-Care Fair was designed to be the first of a series of pop-up events to help community members and frontline protesters address the embodied trauma they experienced. The trauma may have occurred by watching the video of George Floyd or of others being killed by police, engaging a militarized police force, experiencing their community on fire, the sound or witness of gunshots and emergency sirens, or any other experiences that were traumatic for them in this time of unrest. We want the community to develop a sustainable practice of self-care as resistance. We want the community to engage and continue both familiar and unfamiliar methods of coming to wholeness in their bodies.
In addition to the Self-Care Fair, Jeanelle compiled self-care packages for the medical tent and security volunteers and delivered them in early July.
Most Recent Updates (September 15, 2020)
The intersection of 38th and Chicago remains an autonomous zone cared for by local community members. On August 12, Justice Resolution 001 with its addendum was submitted to the Mayor and City Council representatives for East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue South in response to the City’s initial intent to begin a phased reopening of 38th Street on August 17th. This document has 24 demands that respond to the question community members were repeatedly asked, “What does justice look like?”
These demands are not a comprehensive list of the justice owed our community. However, it is a start. When told that the community could not keep moving the line for justice, Jeanelle responded, “But does not the line of injustice keep moving on us?”
“No Justice, No Streets!” This statement is the rallying cry of what is affectionately known as “the Square,” which is short for George Floyd Square. There have since been two meetings with the Mayor of Minneapolis, multiple community gatherings for both leisure and business, and an unyielding resolve fo the community to witness justice through very doable demands.
In August, the iconic blue mural of George Floyd was defaced my a University of Minnesota medical student. In response, classmates of the perpetrator and members of the organization of White Coats for Black Lives held a rally to denounce his actions and call for more accountability for anti-racism in the medical industry and institutions.
The weekend of September 11th, the siblings of George Floyd were in town to attend a court hearing. On Sunday evening, they visited the memorial. The caretakers, which now consist of a team of 19 people with three subdivision of outdoor, conservation, and exhibit administration, were prepared to deliver a box full of letters and notes addressed to George Floyd or to his family. Each item was extracted from the memorial, properly dried, and delivered to the family. If the family so chooses, they may re-gift the letters back to the memorial as a collection.
If you would like to donate your time or skill set, please contact Jeanelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeanelle takes financial donations personally and redirects them to meet community needs on the ground. You may contribute to her efforts through any of the following platforms:
Racial Agency Initiative is not a nonprofit organization. Any donations to Jeanelle for her efforts in Minneapolis are not tax-deductible. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to an organization in Minneapolis doing work on the ground, Racial Agency Initiative recommends the following options:
Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association
Lake Street Council
Thanks to our friends and partners that keep this work sustainable!
Latina & Wil H.
Julie & Eric T.
David & Rebekka S.
Simeon & Phoebe S.
St. Barnabas Church Pasadena
Kenichi & Sayuri Y.
Great River Spine & Sport