May 25, 2021, marks the first anniversary of the wrongful death of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. In an unlawful case that would be globally deemed a blatant testament to racially targeted police brutality, Floyd had become a figurehead for millions, spurring nationwide protests against law enforcement and cries for federal reform.
While Floyd became a tragic national symbol, his family experienced unfathomable heartbreak over his loss. In a somber reflection with USA Today, his younger sibling Philonise Floyd recounted visiting Jack Yates High School in Houston’s Third Ward and being innocently shown by high school students the viral video of his brother struggling under Chauvin, during which he cried, “I can’t breathe. … Tell my family I love them.” Upon painfully rewatching the final moments of George’s life, Philonise recalled immediately breaking down into tears. “To everybody else, this was a case and a cause,” he told the newspaper. “But to me, that was my big brother.”
Amid spearheading protests and nonprofit organisations dedicated to police reform, the Floyd family have taken to various demonstrations and panels ahead of the anniversary of George’s death to share reflections on grappling with their loss, as well as their sentiments and remarks on the state of law enforcement and police brutality a year following the tragic incident. On Sunday, they organised a Minneapolis demonstration in commemoration of the anniversary of Floyd’s death, where hundreds of civilians gathered for a march outside the downtown courthouse where Chauvin’s trial was held. Among the demonstrators was Floyd’s sister Bridgett Floyd, who spoke out to the crowd, saying, “It has been a long year. It has been a painful year. It has been very frustrating for me and my family for our lives to change in the blink of an eye—I still don’t know why.”
The demonstration included remarks by speakers, including members of the Floyd family and local activists, and was among several others held throughout the nation. In another Sunday demonstration, this one held in Brooklyn, brother Terrence Floyd spoke to the crowd of demonstrators, imploring them to remember George Floyd’s name and the countless others who tragically fell victim to unwarranted police violence. “If you keep my brother’s name ringing, you’re going to keep everybody else’s name ringing,” he said. “Breonna Taylor, Sean Bell, Ahmaud Arbery, you could go through the whole list.”
The family has continued to fight for justice. In September of 2020, Floyd’s siblings launched the George Floyd Memorial Foundation in an effort to “challenge the root causes of racial inequity and end the systemic violence affecting Black Americans.” Based in their hometown, Fayetteville, North Carolina, the organisation has since funded initiatives to help reduce homelessness and granted scholarships to law school students, as well as internship programmes at Floyd’s alma mater, Texas A&M University. Philonise also founded the Philonise and Keeta Floyd Institute for Social Change later that year to advance awareness on social justice.
Floyd’s other sister, LaTonya Floyd, told USA Today that Chauvin’s murder has filled her with rage but has also given her a sense of purpose. “[Chauvin] gave me a reason to keep breathing,” she said. “I need to know why: What possessed you to kill my brother?”
Last month, Chauvin was found guilty on all charges for Floyd’s murder.
This article first appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US