The image of Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck has been circulating around the world for a year. We all heard him mumble the words “I can’t breathe” on the asphalt of a Minneapolis street because strangers were using their phones to record what was being done.
The gruesome video of his death has shaped protests across North Carolina. In Fayetteville, he lit a literal fire in the Market House – a building known as the focal point of the city where goods were sold, and at one point slaves were auctioned off.
The conflict around the National Historic Landmark dates back to the Civil War – when troops marched on the same stretch of road where militants now congregate almost 200 years later. Floyd’s death didn’t suddenly shine a light on the market house’s mixed history. According to activist living in the community, Mario Benavente, it metaphorically shattered something already broken for people who were already insane.
Benavente says, “Unless we are completely open to the history of the Market House, we will continue to have issues with what exactly it represents. There are some good things about it, and certainly, a lot of tough conversations we need to have about it.
Benavente grew up in Fayetteville and says when he moved home after graduating from college, he didn’t feel like the history of the monument was ever really discussed.
The way Floyd died amplified the unrest and ultimately led to two men setting the cultural device on fire on May 30, 2020. While it wasn’t the kind of action he’d like to see, Benavente says he loved to see it. people stand side by side the next day. day to camp outside the brick reminder of slavery in the past. He says marching soldiers for the cause through the streets of Fayetteville has greater significance because Floyd was born there.
Benavente said: “We have something to say here in Fayetteville, and I want to make sure everyone knows we’re not going to be on the sidelines for things like this. a truly inspiring moment in so many ways. “
The reasons why some of these protests that set the building on fire are part of the anger and frustration felt across the country at Floyd’s death. Some of these emotions and feelings were shared at a local barber shop called Premier Kuts. Owner and barber Torrance Rhodes said progress has been made and more work needs to be done.
Rhodes said: “A hair salon has a whole bunch of things that people want to talk about. Whatever the topic, they will actually share their thoughts and get different opinions. “
Rhodes says it’s also not a bad place to test the pulse of the large black community. When people sit in his chair, they let him know what they are thinking.
Rhodes said, “Sometimes people come just to have this dialogue and talk.”
One of the clients who comes to do this more than once a month is Devon Binyard. Binyard calls the barber shop a pleasant escape. Binyard said: “It’s like a clubhouse where men meet.”
They each describe it as an open forum for conversations that you can’t have in church or at home. No issues or topics are off limits and you can freely share your opinion in a place where you can speak as you like about the topic being discussed.
It’s also a chance for men from all walks of life to talk about what it’s like to be black in America, a year after Floyd’s murder.
Rhodes said: “Even though it’s over, it’s probably not over because things are still happening.”
Rhodes says it feels more real to the outside world because Chauvin’s brutal murder of Floyd was recorded with cell phone cameras. Rhodes said, “(This) continued, the camera (is) just letting everyone know now.”
Rhodes and Binyard say violence against black men at the hands of white police officers is a common trend.
Statistics support their argument. The research and advocacy group, Mapping Police Violence, reported that blacks are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites.
Binyard said: “When I see things like this it makes me more vigilant.”
Binyard considers Chauvin’s conviction on April 20 of this year to be a drop in the bucket.
This may be because Andrew Brown Jr. was shot and killed by deputies from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office a day later.
Binyard said, “It’s different as a black man. I don’t feel like I’m stressing him out because of what the media is showing. “Binyard says what he means is that just because more people know that these incidents can happen to black men at any time does not mean that it reduces the number of times it has happened. produced when the cameras were not rolling.
So, almost a year later, what is a bright spot?
Rhodes says it’s simple: Videos taken by cellphones broadcast atrocities for the world to see.
Rhodes said, “Now you can see it. Previously, if it wasn’t picked up by (a) camera that was on someone’s stuff, then no one ever knew. It was just their story. Now everyone can see it with a cell phone.
If you thought video would stop these incidents, the data indicates the opposite is true.
Mapping police violence also found that police officers had killed more than 1,000 Americans since Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020.
Binyard wants to believe that one day in the future these statistics will improve. Binyard said: “The change is going to come, but it’s going to be gradual.”
For that to happen, Binyard says white people have to walk in black neighborhoods long before they become men and women in blue.
Binyard said, “You are able to understand this neighborhood and the people you deal with and relate to them.”