Black community in central Pennsylvania remembers George Floyd a year later

It’s been a year since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The nine-minute video of a policeman kneeling on Floyd’s neck has led to protests across the country and calls for reform. Some residents of the black community of central Pennsylvania spoke with WPSU about what Floyd’s death meant to them.

Harriett Gaston of Altoona remembers the first time she watched the video of a police officer killing George Floyd.

“I could feel the helplessness of whoever was watching this,” Gaston said, “and empathizing with what was going on and just that feeling of ‘why can’t we do something’.”

The video quickly circulated on social networks and various media outlets.

State College Reverend Carol Thomas Cissel remembers being glued to his television screen.

“First there were just the news anchors, a lot of very tense anxiety, but no photos, talking about the situation,” Cissel said. “And then I remember, once the video that this young lady took broke, it was all over the place. Just the horror that someone knelt on his neck for nine minutes, and it was all recorded.

State College wedding photographer Michael Davis felt helpless when he watched the video.

He and his wife, Amira, have three children. Two of them are young boys. And he worries for their safety as black children.

“It is heartbreaking that this has happened. And I don’t know what to do to stop it, “Davis said,” other than trying to prevent my own kids from being put in these situations. ”

Davis and his family lived in two towns where black men died at the hands of the police.

In 2015, they were living in Baltimore when Freddie Gray died in police custody. And then, in 2017, Osaze Osagie was shot dead by police at State College.

“It happens so often that you get tired of being tired and you learn to go through the trauma,” Davis said, “It was one of those things that sounded like, ‘OK, another wrongful murder of a black man. I wonder what’s going to happen tomorrow. ”

It’s a sentiment shared by Gaston, who couldn’t watch the video of Floyd’s death over and over again.

“It is wreaking havoc. There is no ifs, and buts or buts about it, ”Gaston said. “There is an emotional toll that also has an impact on the physique. Sleep, anxiety, diet. Seeking, you know, “I have to talk to somebody.” Who do I talk to to deal with this? ”

She also recognizes the importance of talking about it with friends and other people.

Reverend Cissel had to help her church, the Center County Universalist Unitarian community, deal with it all.

“I have a tradition, with my congregation, is when something happens… especially that has to do with race or violence, I talk about it at the start of our service,” Cissel said. “I talk about it with leadership and in one-on-one conversations. And then I write about it. And I share it. And I encourage others to talk about it too. ”

Davis also continues to have conversations with his children.

“You must pay attention. You have to watch what you are doing. You have to watch what you say. You have to watch how you are. You can’t do some things, ”Davis says.

Davis, Gaston and Cissel still have hope for the future. But, they all know there is a lot of work to be done.

“I don’t want my kids to continue fighting this battle, even though I know they will. We still have this conversation about what it means to just be black, like just to exist. Can I just exist in my own city? ” Request for an opinion.

Davis hopes race relations at State College and in America will improve.

Gaston wants more allies to join the fight for justice.

“I think the biggest dream I have is these white allies who say, ‘I’ve seen it, I understand, I want to make a change’ by getting involved with those who are in this minority. , said Gaston.

Cissel also encourages others to take this first step and get involved in local justice organizations.

“You have to get close to the people who are impacting the change. And here at State College, here in Center County, the 3/20 Coalition, State College NAACP, and the African American clergy are waiting for you to reach out and put your hand in ours, so we can help you, Cissel said.

The 3/20 Coalition hosted a community retreat at State College in remembrance of George Floyd and other black lives lost to the police.

3/20 Coalition co-chair Nanre Nafziger hopes this will help the whole city.

“We want people to reflect on their personal journeys and also our journey as a community. We want people to take this moment to take a break, to feel the pain of what these murders have done to families, but also what they have done to us, ”Nafziger said.

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