Two years later, family members work to keep George Floyd’s legacy alive
The George Floyd Foundation's Shareeduh McGee and Tera Brown spoke to theGrio about grief and purpose in the days leading to the second anniversary of his death.
Two of George Floyd’s family members have been quietly working behind the scenes on social justice and community initiatives they believe would make their cousin proud.
Shareeduh McGee and Tera Brown serve as president and vice-president, respectively, of The George Floyd Foundation in Houston. It was the first foundation formed after Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, they say.
McGee and Brown – Floyd’s sister and first cousin – spoke to theGrio about several subjects in the days leading to the second anniversary of his death. They’re still haunted by the callousness former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin showed during his sentencing hearing. Chauvin killed Floyd when he kept his knee on his neck for more than nine minutes. They’re disappointed that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would restrict certain police practices and make cops more accountable for their actions, remains stuck in the U.S. Senate.
They also discussed the emptiness and pain they still feel.
“Everybody saw this video, and the way in which Perry was murdered, it’s different than anyone else,” McGee, said, referring to Floyd by his middle name. “Because it was a slow and gradual torturous thing we all had to watch play out.”
The full interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What’s changed over the last year?
McGee: Some of the focus with the protests has changed. We understood that shift would happen. You know that at some point, we would have to move from that phase to one of, what are we going to do? So to build on the momentum of the first year, we have continued to work hard behind the scenes.
So what’s going on behind the scenes that people wouldn’t necessarily know?
McGee: We have a lot of projects that we’re working on to kind of shift things in the community and try to bridge gaps in the community. We have a project that will be announced within the next week that we’re working on with a technology company where we’re trying to provide content to individuals who are looking for second chances. We work with schools and universities. We just finished some courses with Texas Southern University, where we work with the police officers to talk about community policing. Youth mentoring services is one component of what we do here at the foundation. So there are just a lot of different things that we’re working on. And I think that these are things that definitely will make a difference in our community.
Why did you start the foundation?
McGee: It’s a foundation that we found in the middle of our grief to figure out a way we could make sure that George’s death was not in vain and that we would continue his legacy. It’s an opportunity for us to work with elected officials to change their laws on our local, state, and federal levels on policing so that no other family would have to encounter or go through what our family had to go through.
How do you see his legacy?
Brown: What can we do to make sure that people remember the life that he lived as much as the way he died? The things that we’ve chosen to do with our foundation are all things that were important to his life. We want the legacy to be something that he would have been proud of. Being able to provide opportunities to folks like us that grew up in the same community that we grew up in. Providing second chances for folks who struggle with either incarceration or drugs or whatever it is.
What have you found the most gratifying in your work?
McGee. I found more people who understood and empathized. In fact, we met people who said they had never really been able to process what African American people would talk about when we talk about profiling and the different things that happen. So I think the most gratifying thing to me was just the humanity to see that there were so many people who, for the first time in my life, [showed] there was no color. It was just, ‘I hurt as much as you guys. I know that he was not my brother and not my cousin, not my father, not my son.’ But the pain was something that everybody could feel.
Brown: What happened to him transcended race and religion because it was humanity. If you had any love for human beings at all, you recognize that what happened to him was not only a horrific tragedy, but it was injustice, it was inhumane. And so I think when you see something like that, it touches the core of people.
What’s been most disturbing?
McGee: The act itself. I don’t think I can get past it. If I can think about one single thing, it was the audacity of (Derek) Chauvin. To carry himself as if he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. I mean, that definitely was something I remember. I just could not process how someone could be so disconnected from what he had done.
Brown: I never heard an apology. He said things are going to come out. It was unbelievable to me that he would go through that whole process and an apology never happened. There was no remorse.
What hasn’t happened in the last two years that you wish would have?
McGee: Obviously, the George Floyd Policing Act (we hoped) would have passed by now. I’m not sure what has to happen, but I’m still pessimistically optimistic that, at some point, it will happen. But we would have thought that, by this time, it could have been done.
I’m sure you want a law that matters …
McGee: We’re not interested in having something symbolic passed. So when you think about having components that will hold officers accountable, I think that’s what the holdout is. If the bill isn’t going to change the way things have always been and have the teeth required to make officers accountable, then there’s no point in passing it.
What will never be the same?
McGee: Holidays. Perry was that person that would dip in and out. He may not stay for the entire family dinner. But you knew when he came in and left because he just had that presence. And so that’s something that will never be the same.
Brown: He had a huge personality. There’s no replacement for that. You’ll always have that empty spot. I always will remember the phone call that I didn’t make or the text message that I didn’t send. That has been haunting for me and has changed me forever.
What does the name George Floyd mean?
McGee: His name is synonymous with social justice and policing. And I do think that that’s going to be, forever.
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