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Say Their Names: George Floyd and the Movement to Uplift Black Lives

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On May 25, 2020, the nation ignited after a bystander posted a horrific video of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.

Now the movement to uplift Black lives, and to defund and dismantle police departments where officers disproportionately kill and brutalize African American men and women, has grown to a point where it can no longer be ignored.

We’ll hear from activists in Minneapolis, mourners in Houston, and we’ll go to our archives for an interview with the brother of Yuvette Henderson. She was killed by Emeryville police in 2015.

Special thanks to Davey D of Hard Knock Radio, and Rebecca McDonald from BFRESH Productions for allowing us to use field recordings from Minneapolis.

Image Credit: Rebecca McDonald, BFresh Productions
Image Caption: Minneapolis Rally, May 29, 2020

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Transcript Below

Featuring:

  • Stephen Jackson, George Floyd’s friend and former NBA player

  • Valarie Castile, BLM activist and Philando Castile’s mother

  • Lisa Bender, President of the Minneapolis City Council

  • Alicia Garza, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter

  • Brooke Williams, George Floyd’s niece

  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas

  • Jamison Robinson, Yuvette Henderson’s brother
  • Rev. Al Sharpton

Credits:

Making Contact Staff:

  • Executive Director: Sonya Green
  • Staff Producers: Anita Johnson, Monica Lopez, Salima Hamirani
  • Web updates: Sabine Blaizin
  • Director of  Production Initiatives and Distribution: Lisa Rudman

Special thanks for recordings:

  • Davey D, Hard Knock Radio
  • Rebecca McDonald, BFRESH Productions

Thanks to Carol Maddox for transcription

 

Music:

  • “Black Ant”, Fater Lee
  • “Arbic Tallow”, Blue Dot Sessions
  • “Underwater”, Meydan
  • “Surreal Johnny Ripper Remix”, Ouri

Say Their Names

 George Floyd Chants: “Say his name! George Floyd…”

 

This week on Making Contact… On May 25, 2020… the nation ignited after a bystander posted a horrific video of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.

 

As terrible as Floyd’s death was, it was the final straw in the most recent series of killings by police… retired or on duty… against African Americans that had gone viral on social media.

 

They were Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

 

Since then, the movement to uplift Black lives, and to defund and dismantle police departments where officers disproportionately kill and brutalize African American men and women… has grown to a point where it can no longer be ignored.

 

In this episode, we’ll hear from activists in Minneapolis, mourners in Houston, and later in the show… we’ll revisit our archives from 2016 for an interview with the brother of Yuvette Henderson who was killed by Emeryville police in California.

 

This is Say Their Names, on Making Contact. I’m Monica Lopez.

 

 [crossfade music to Minneapolis protest sound]

 

On May 29th, demonstrators rallied in front of Cup Foods in Minneapolis to demand that the four officers involved in George Floyd’s alleged murder be formally charged.

 

Floyd’s friend and former NBA player Stephen Jackson: “I love all of ya’ll, love you too, and I mean it…this      might be more than a racist cop trying to display his hate for the world to see.  Next time we hear us the name George Floyd, it’s gonna be the name of change.  Cause this the last time we gonna have to come together like this to get justice (unintelligible) They hate us that much, where recording and phones don’t matter? Once again I gotta go back to common sense, it ain’t common.  But we here, we ain’t scared, we ain’t going nowhere.  It’s so f-d up that the world can see him getting murdered and we still gotta do this to get justice.  But it’s not surprising.  We here ya’ll, if you’re not with us you against us.  It’s that simple.  We’re tired of ya’ll wanting to benefit off our culture.  But everybody wanna be black it’s the time to be black.  Today we draw a line in the sand, bro.  Either you’re with us, or you’re against us.  It’s that simple.  Justice for my twin.  Thank you all.” [say his name, George Floyd]

 

Valarie_Castile:  “My name is Valarie Castile. I’m Philando Castile’s mother. If you all remember, he was murdered in cold blood, in his car with a seat belt on, with a child and a woman in the car. There was no accountability for shooting in a car at a black family. Now you tell me what could he do? Where could he go? Where could he run? What could he do? He was seat belted in his car.  You emptied your gun in my son! You emptied your gun. 

And they said this is our right! This is what a reasonable officer would do. Taking a life. Now what would an unreasonable police officer do? You have taken a life. And you are reasonable. What would an unreasonable police officer do? Come on now.  I have worn down. For four years I have sat with these people across the table. And I talk, and I talk, and I cried. 

We’ve got to change. We’ve got to change some things. They weren’t hearing me. They weren’t hearing me when I begged. I begged them to change some things. And you wonder why it’s going down like this. You wonder why it’s going down like this. 

Today’s a day of reckoning. Today’s the day of reckoning

I didn’t cry for my son. But I’ve cried for all our stolen children today. 

We need to keep talking. We need to sit across the table. We gotta go through these laws, and pull them out, and get rid of those mother [f-ers] that’s up in there calling the shots. I’m tired. Lord, I’m tired. Thank you, Lord. And I just want to take a moment of silence for all our stolen children’s lives”.

According to the Hennepin County Attorney, it’s the prosecutors who are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that deadly force was not justified when seeking criminal charges against a police officer.

 

Now, the time of reckoning that Valarie Castile has called out has arrived for police departments in cities across the country…first and most thoroughly in Minneapolis where the city council voted to dismantle their police department.

 

Lisa Bender is president of the Minneapolis City Council.

 

Lisa Bender:  “Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth:  that the Minneapolis police are not doing that.  Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis police department.  To end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.”

 

Narration: As always, the devil is in the details.

 

The web site of MPD 150, a Minneapolis collective that works on the issue of dismantling the police department, says the city can do this in part by shifting social service oriented roles to community organizations, and by de-militarizing responses to emergency situations.

 

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza had this to say when asked what it means to “defund the police.”

 

Alicia_Garza:  “Are we willing to live in fear that our lives will be taken by police officers who are literally using their power in the wrong way or are we willing to adopt and absorb the fear of what it might mean to change our  practices which will ultimately lead to a better quality of life for everyone?  So again I want to be very, very clear: 7 years ago people thought that Black Lives Matter was a radical idea, and yet Black Lives Matter is now a household name and it’s something being discussed across kitchen tables all over the world. 

Why can’t we start to look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities so that people don’t have to be in the streets protesting during a national pandemic.  It’s really (and a global pandemic) it’s time for us to address the pandemic in our community and that pandemic is not having the resources we need to live well.  And that’s not just a black problem, that’s everybody’s problem.”  

 

While the Minneapolis City Council has stated its intention to defund and dismantle its police department, cities like Los Angeles and New York also promised to cut their police budgets in response to the protests. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said he would redirect 150 million dollars of the LAPD’s 1.8 billion dollar budget to spending on jobs, health, and education. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio hasn’t offered any specifics yet on his cuts to the NYPD’s 6 billion dollar budget.

 

On June 9, 2020, hundreds of mourners gathered to memorialize the life of George Floyd in Houston Texas.  What follows are excerpts from some of the speakers in attendance

 

Family

  • Niece: Hello, my name is Brooke Williams, George Floyd’s niece and I can breathe. Long as I’m breathing justice will be served for Perry. First off, I want to thank all of you for coming out to support George Perry Floyd. My uncle was a father, brother, uncle and a cousin to many.  Spiritually grounded, an activist. He always moved people with his words. The officers showed no remorse for watching my uncle’s soul leave his body. He begged and pleaded many times just for you to get up. But you just pushed harder. Why must this system be corrupt and broken?  Laws were already put in place for the African American system to fail.  These laws need to be changed. No more hate crimes, Please! Someone said, make America great again. But when has America ever been great?  [applause]
  • Those four officers were literally on him for nine minutes and none of them showed they have a heart or soul. This is not just murder, but a hate crime. 
  • Brother 2: You want the real today, right? My brother.  He’s sitting here. He didn’t have to be sitting here today.  Those men that stood on my brother’s neck changed the world. They took somebody from us that was great. When I say great, I never heard him complain, not one time. He was an umbrella to all of us. He was 6’6”: any rain came all the way, he made sure that he could cover for us from the Cuney Homes to Jack Yates High. He was everybody’s shelter, everybody’s shelter. I don’t care what George Floyd did. I don’t care. Let me tell you all something. He was a human being, first of all. 

Congressional Representative from Texas Sheila Jackson Lee:

 Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: “George Floyd was here on an assignment. It is painful to be able to accept that. I’m so sorry I know him in death. But he was here on an assignment. Some folks on assignments only get to stay 30 year. When the wicked men thought they had done something. George Floyd took it. Forty six years he walked this journey. He left behind sisters and brothers who could stand up against the adversity of life. When the camera came and people asked to PJ and others, what do you want? 

We want justice. 

We want justice. 

So, my friends, I don’t know if I’ll ever get eight minutes and 46 seconds, Reverend Sharpton, out of my DNA. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to overcome the words, “I can’t breathe”. Eric Garner’s mother and Trayvon Martin’s mother and all the mothers and Robbie Tolan. 

“I can’t breathe”.

But what I will say is that the assignment of George Floyd, and the purpose, will mean there will be no more

eight minutes and 46 seconds of police brutality.  There will be no more eight minutes and forty six seconds of injustice and the mistreatment of African-American men at the hands of the laws of this nation and any one else. 

There will be no more eight minutes and 46 seconds that you will be in pain without getting justice. His assignment turned into a purpose, and that purpose went around the world, that there are people rising up that will never sit down until you get justice. And so I say to all of those who are here, to that

And so I say to George Floyd, it’ll be up to us that his purpose and his assignment for the justice of this nation, for the fact that there will never be the brutality faced by a man that says I can’t breathe and calls to a mama who loved him so”

 

Reverend Al Sharpton:  “Let us not leave this family. Now that the ceremony is over, this is the beginning of the fight. This is not the end of the fight. 

George, I read on the front page of The New York Times this morning. You said you wanted to touch the world. Well, God, had already made you for that. But you didn’t touch it in a basketball court or football court. God had something else for you to do because all over the world, George they marching with your name. You’ve touched the world in South Africa. You touched the world, in England, you’ve touched every one of the 50 states. Even in a pandemic, people are walking out in the streets, not even following social distancing because you’ve touched the world. 

And as we lay you to rest today, the movement won’t rest until we get justice. Until we have one standard of justice. Your family is gonna miss you, George. But your nation is going to always remember your name because your neck was one that represented all of us.  And how you suffered represented our suffering.  So we gonna lay you near your mama now. You called for mama. We’re gonna lay your body next to hers. 

But I know mom has already embraced you, George. You fought a good fight. You kept the faith. You finished your course. Go on and get your rest now.

Go on and see mama now. Now we gone fight on. We gone fight on. We gone fight on. We gone fight on.”

 

 Those were the voices of family and dignitaries from the June 9, 2020 funeral services for George Floyd in Houston Texas.

 

You are listening to Say Their Names on Making Contact.

 Coming up… a conversation from our archives with Jamison Robinson on the death of his sister who was killed by police in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

We’ll be right back…

 

In cities across the country, black women, many of whom have been on the frontlines of the Movement for Black Lives, are continuing to lift up the names of their sisters killed by police. Sisters like Yuvette Henderson who was shot by Emeryville police.

In this segment, encored from 2016, Making Contact’s Marie Choi went to Jamison Robinson’s home to talk with him about his sister, Yuvette Henderson.

 

Jamison Robinson: “This is her as she was young, I think she was about 11 years old. This is me and her. We were going to I think it was Disney on Ice I remember this is at the BART station. And that’s about the only picture I was able to find of me and her. I can remember that day like it was yesterday.

 

This is her when she was a baby, still looking the same. This is like one of the recent pictures of her”. [interviewer: she’s beautiful]

 

We’re in Oakland, California, on a quiet street just one block from a busy freeway and a big hospital. I’m sitting on Jamison Robinson’s porch. He’s swiping through photos on his phone. I had come to talk with him about his sister, Yvette Henderson.

 

“Yes, she is. She. She was always happy. Yes. Like she did. She she’s always happy. I mean, just this laughing like this. Smiling all the time and just being goofy, funny.

 

Our mom passed away. Our mom passed away like in 89. I was eight. She was 13. She took a big step as being, going from being just a little teenager and then realizing that her family was going to need her, you know saying pretty soon because our mother was gone, our father never was around. And she just took on that role as being a mother, grandmother. You know, just a all around good person and you know, I just, I miss her, a lot.

 

Wow, I know she was living a good life. You know, she had she had a job, house, car. You know, she had her kids together, you know, couple months prior to her passing away, she kind of had some personal issues that led to almost losing her job and her house and her car. She was staying with her friend for a little bit so she could save up her money and stuff and get another spot.”

 

But before she could make that move, everything changed.

 

Chanting, She breathe, Yuvette woke up take care of those babies, preparing their clothes, the “No way should could know what she faced that day. I should run a few errands then home”.

 

That day her errands included a stop at Home Depot. When Yuvette was leaving the store a security guard stopped her. He accused her of shoplifting and called the police.

 

“Hello, you’ve reached Emeryville Police” “Hi how you doing? I’m security from Home Depot. I have a female shoplifter, she’s being uncooperative, doesn’t want to come in.” “She’s being uncooperative?” “Yeah, she’s not taking her purse” “my purse don’t have anything in here” “she’s not cooperative, doesn’t want to come back into the store with me”.

 

Yuvette had sustained a head injury after security guards pushed her to the ground. She wanted an ambulance.

 

“She also wants to request an ambulance. She says she hit her head when she fell to the ground.”  “She requests an ambulance?”

 

“Yeah”. “OK, we’ll go ahead and get one of those started.” “Ok”  “Could you stay on the line? Sir?”

 

We don’t know exactly what happened, but we do know that she never made it to the ambulance. The security guard, the one who called 911, said that she ran from the store and pulled out a gun. She was trying to get on the bus.

 

“Are you gonna send somebody over? She just pulled out a gun on us.”

 

An eyewitness told local news station KTVU.

 

“I just saw a lady. The bus was stopped behind BestBuy at the stop sign. And she was running, holding her purse and waving her hand.  And next thing I know, I see a police lady chasing her.”

 

On February 3rd, 2015 police officers shot and killed Yuvette in broad daylight across the street from the Home Depot. She was 38 years old and a mother of four. She had just celebrated the birth of her first grandchild.

 

Jamison: “I mean, I really didn’t find out until the next day on the news my auntie saw it on the news early that morning. I was basically asleep and my auntie called me and I googled it on my phone.”

 

Radio announcer:  Police say she ran down Hollis under the 580 overpass while attempting to carjack at least three vehicles. Police say they ordered her to put down her weapon and that’s when she pointed it at them and they opened fire.

 

Jamison: “And then the stuff that they was saying, it was kind of like I understand like they was trying to make it seem like she was just so just this deranged suspect that was out carjacking, and you know, just I mean, she just dropped her kids off at school like a few hours before that. And I just didn’t believe it. So I ended up Googling her name and reading all whatever I can just to come to a conclusion. That’s when I came across IndyBay and I read about APTP [Anti Police-Terror Project]. Now, the only article that I believe that was questioning just all how I was questioning. What happened? Why? Why did  they, I mean one they said she was allegedly carjacking three cars I mean…she’s a small woman. You know, she’s about 4’11”-5’. How they was saying that she allegedly pointed a weapon towards the cops. I’m just like that sounds. I mean, if you knew her, if you know her like anybody else know…No. That just sounds….Just unbelievable.

 

That’s when I investigated my own way, trying to see if there’s videotape, any witnesses that was there.”

 

Jamieson began by reaching out to the Anti Police-Terror Project, a local organization that, among other things, trains people to be community first responders when the police kill someone. The officers that killed Yuvette had been wearing body cameras and the stores had video surveillance, both inside and outside.  With the support of APTP and other local organizations he began demanding the release of the video footage and the coroner’s report. For months, people held vigils and marches, shut down. The Home Depot, created street theater

 

[Chanting: See when a black woman runs for her life, the world won’t stop for her.  She banged on their windows begging for her life but they drove on by.  The bus surely will stop, but the sister driving the bus was scared of her sister that day.  Hungry,thirsty,hungry…Hungry, thirsty, hungry…they fear black women while glorifying the stereotype of her anger. Power is what black lives hold. Validate a female with power and gold. Yuvette]

 

 

After two months, the Oakland Police Department allowed Yuvette’s family and their lawyer to view the video footage.

 

Jamison: “Because everything they were saying that there is no video camera from the Extra Storage place, which was the most critical footage which it was like right in front. There was no footage from that. The body cameras off on both of the officers or whatever.

 

To me, it makes me feel like they tried to cover it up, you know, trying to make it try to make her seem a certain type of way just for them to make it look good for the police or whatever. Or just to make them feel like it was justified, you know, I don’t understand why they can just kill her like they did with a AR15, which was just overkill.”

 

Yuvette’s family pressed even harder to get the coroner’s report. They mobilized the city council meetings and protested outside the police stations.

 

Jamison:  “It shouldn’t take that long. It took really like almost like eight to nine months.  I just basically wanted answers and I wanted the truth. You know, not no cover up, not no if, and, maybe’s not. No allegedly. Just the truth.”

 

When the sheriff finally released the coroner’s report, the results were shocking. Dan Siegel, the attorney for Yuvette’s family, reviewed the coroner’s report and found that there was no evidence to suggest that she was an imminent threat to police officers or that she was even facing them when they killed her.

 

Siegel:  “The evidence that we have gathered so far indicates that the officers were absolutely under no threat at all. At the time they fired at Miss Henderson, they hit her at least three times. None of the shots were in the front of her body. They were in her back and in her side. They shot her to death. Again, no evidence that any of them were at risk because of any action that she took.”

 

Yuvette’s brother Jamison says this experience has changed the way he sees things.

 

Jamison: “Don’t believe everything you hear on the media. I mean I mean, sometimes you have to go and do your own research. Just keep fighting for justice. You know, just keep fighting and don’t don’t give up. Don’t let down. Because the moment you let down, is the moment they gonna keep going for it.”

 

Again, that was Jamison Robinson speaking about his sister Yuvette Henderson who was killed by Emeryville Police officers in 2015. The Henderson family reached a settlement with the Emeryville Police Department in 2017.

 

CROSSFADE MUSIC

 

You have been listening to Say Their Names on Making Contact.

 

Special thanks to Davey D of Hard Knock Radio, and Rebecca McDonald from BFRESH Productions for allowing us to use field recordings from Minneapolis. Thanks to Carol Maddox for transcription.

 

The Making Contact team is executive director Sonya Green, producers Anita Johnson Salima Hamirani and Monica Lopez, Web manager Kathryn Styer, director of production initiatives Lisa Rudman. 

 

And I’m this week’s producer and host, Monica Lopez.

 

Thanks for listening to Making Contact.

 

 

 

Author: Radio Project

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