On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department when 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.
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 police. 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 has so far volunteered well over 60 hours during the month of June. 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, 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, changing garbage bags, sweeping up broken glass, welcoming visitors, 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) 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.)
3) Get a second opinion. When in doubt, just ask.
4) Come when you can and stay for as long as you can. Your contribution, however long or short, is welcome.
5) Wear gloves. You can bring your own, or disposable gloves are available.
6) People are grieving, hold space for their grief.
|Donation Spending Category||Amount||% of Donations|
|George Floyd Square||$661.63||11%|
|George Floyd Community Medical Station||$1,374.19||23%|
|Community Trauma Healing||TBD||TBD|
The continued funds we raise will go toward efforts for community trauma healing, including a budding 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 work is to design and launch a sustainable, accessible program 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 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.
Jeanelle has been taking donations personally and redirecting 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:
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