From Tulsa to Minneapolis: A Year After George Floyd

A century ago, in a highly segregated city under Jim Crow laws, we remember when white mobs were deputized and given weapons by city officials in what will have become one of the worst racial massacres in U.S. history where hundreds of Black people were murdered and thriving businesses and homes were burned down in a Greenwood neighborhood known as Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK.

We can see a continuing struggle over racial justice when a year ago, we watched the merciless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, whose murder launched a global movement and sparked an international outcry. The death of Mr. Floyd forced a national conversation about race in the world—and captured a vivid illustration of the shared history of systemic racism and violence against Black people across the globe.

Mr. Floyd’s death was a global symbol motivating some 26 million protesters to come together to ignite change. We watched as people unified around the world in solidarity for Black lives and witnessed demonstrations in Africa that called for an end to police brutality and addressed its dark history of colonialism, apartheid and slavery. These events recall a horrific time in 1960 during the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, when police opened fire in a Black township, killing 69 unarmed people peacefully protesting the passbook, resettlement and other apartheid laws. From Tulsa to Minneapolis and South Africa, we can see how and why history repeats itself and the need for sustained action and solidarity. Amid the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Floyd’s death shaped the course of events around the world, reminding us of how frequently hard-won democracies are denied to Black people, and when faced with adversity—we continue to persist, rebuild, and reimagine a better world.

The 9-minute and 29-second murder of Mr. Floyd was a powerful catalyst that inspired massive calls for action to end police brutality, racial injustice, and reclaim our history. The Black community has become even more unified while gaining more allies in the fight for equality. We have witnessed the removal of confederate monuments like General Stonewall Jackson in Virginia to the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa. Campuses have reckoned with school buildings that memorialize white supremacists and symbolize racism and oppression. There is an increase in mental health awareness and concerns for racial disparities in health systems. We are speaking up and out when mistreated and demanding fairness and equal opportunity in all levels of society. The world saw justice on April 20th when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of Mr. Floyd’s murder—a rare outcome in such a case. Even though Congress has yet to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (HR 7120), we are still making some progress, but there is still a lot more work to do.

Through all this, we watched the strength of young people through this movement for Black lives around the world. They have powerfully reignited our resilience and helped change what it means to be a community and collective bargaining power.

At the same time, the Black community continues to be a target of injustice, the recent killings of Ma'Khia Bryant, Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo represent a growing list of lives lost that are painful reminders that we must be vigilant and unified in calling for greater accountability and institutional change.

So, where do we go from here? We must continue the struggle for liberation by removing the structural barriers of racism, creating more equitable opportunities at all levels of society, while building a more inclusive global human rights agenda that is responsive to movements like Black Lives Matter that are demanding a worldwide reckoning against racism and police brutality.

As a member of the Shared Interest team, I am proud of our fierce anti-apartheid roots, and I am passionate about building on this rich legacy to play an integral role in the fight for racial justice and equality. Shared Interest builds an ecosystem by working to change one of society’s most fundamentally racist institutions: the financial system. We offer our communities a chance at survival by helping them access capital, increase their incomes, create decent jobs, launch new enterprises, and finance the construction of critical infrastructure like homes, schools, and roads. Our work helps to slowly reverse the deep inequalities that were highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic. In Africa and the U.S., these issues had never been far below the surface, but the echoes of the Tulsa massacre and protests to Mr. Floyd’s death made them impossible to ignore.

Today, the hard fight continues to create the future we want and help serve vulnerable communities affected by racism. Here is to remembering George Floyd—and the countless other victims whose lives have been unjustly taken. We celebrate you today and always!

In solidarity,

Shukura Shears

P.S. We will be celebrating South Africa’s Youth Day and Juneteenth at our 27th Anniversary Virtual Gala where you can learn more. We invite you to join the conversation!

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