BY MARQUISE BOWIE
It’s the George Floyd Square to the world. Known as 38th and Chicago to us locals. The most highly publicized murder scene in recent years. Ground zero of a national movement.
To visitors in Minneapolis, that’s all they know about the area. To us, it’s home. A home that we’ve been sharing with the world. A place that’s hurting like many other cities from systemic racism. And yet, not many have brought much to alleviate our pain. I say this believing that the majority of people that are coming are doing so with good intentions. But what do good intentions do for people that have been neglected, struggling from substance abuse, homelessness and gang activity? Nothing. Some say “awareness.” I’ve met people born and raised in the state of Minnesota that were scared to walk the block of 38th and Chicago. And with good reason. But a murder took place, and now these same people run over there to “pay their respects” and take pictures. I don’t understand that.
I’ve been named the Tourist Interrupter of the George Floyd Square. Which is trying to rub the tourist part out of this murder scene. Seeing that it’s not helping the community grow, heal, or thrive. At least not in the ways that the community would like. I must say that there’s no wrong reason for people to come there. People grieve differently, but the core of the community that’s been there in survival mode for decades feels invisible.
The murder of George Floyd was at the height of the COVID-19 epidemic. The world was shut down and the way it happened forced everyone to watch it over and over again. That’s why I think it still resonates in everyone’s mind. I have plenty of conversations with people coming from other states where a highly publicized police killing has taken place, and most people don’t go pay their respects in their home states like they do here in Minneapolis. And yet, not many google the area to know anything more about the neighborhood.
Again, Black people’s pain is on display. And is beneficial to everyone else but Black people. That’s where the Tourist Interrupter comes into play. I plant seeds in people’s hearts and minds to make it more meaningful.
If people are really coming here to be helpful allies to this community I suggest they come with the intention of building relationships. Sit down in the coffee shop and talk to people or get to know the business owners, patronize their businesses, advertise them by word of mouth after the visit is over. Be thinking about ways to solve homelessness, for example.
Be conscious that this is a hurting community. You wouldn’t go visit a homeless encampment without taking water or sandwiches. Come here and be willing to share the pain. People do bring flowers and just the other day a young autistic boy brought a painting he made that he wanted to go to someone in George Floyd’s family. Since I know George Floyd’s aunt Angela Harrelson, we decided it should go to her. The point is, don’t just come and take a fly-by picture.
Because just looking at a murder scene without more details seems like a wasted opportunity. Most don’t know that they could be walking into a tired, hurting, aggressive community. Three hundred Minneapolis police officers had just quit for the most part, and avoided the area all together. They’re claiming “post-traumatic stress disorder.” And getting paid for it. Meanwhile the community doesn’t get the services they pay for with their taxes, if they need them. The first year after the murder, we barely saw police or firefighters or paramedics and not always when we needed them. It’s true people don’t want to call the police, even now, three years later. I believe we need alternatives to police in certain cases.
There is a love-hate relationship with the murder of George Floyd and the neighborhood. The elders want things to be “opened,” which is having full access to transit and mobility down 38th and Chicago and the surrounding side streets. The younger, energetic people want it permanently closed, where there is no traffic. We have to find a healthy balance.