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Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, discusses racism and activism with UVU students

By Ashtyn Asay - Daily Herald | Jan 20, 2022

Photo Supplied, Utah Valley University

Dr. Erika Johnson, assistant professor of literacies and composition, asks a question to Philonise Floyd during a virtual discussion held Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.

Philonise Floyd, activist and the younger brother of George Floyd Jr., spoke virtually at Utah Valley University Thursday and emphasized the importance of talking about racism and having what may seem like difficult or uncomfortable conversations.

“You simply cannot stop talking about race and racism, because it is the issue,” Philonise Floyd said. “That’s not something that you can sweep up under the rug, so therefore this will always be a frontier until somebody else solves it… This is something you should be talking about because to me, if it’s tough to talk about, we need to do something about it.”

Philonise gave the keynote speech for UVU’s 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week. The event took place in the Holland Auditorium in UVU’s Clarke Building, and students, faculty, and community members were in attendance.

On May 26, 2020, Philonise’s life changed forever when he received the news that his older brother had been killed by four police officers in Minneapolis after a store clerk alleged that George had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

According to Philonise, his brother George was a born leader and devoted father to an adoring daughter. Philonise stated that George, who stood at 6’3″, was also aware of his imposing stature and made an effort to make those around him feel at ease.

“He’s the only man I know who can walk into a room with 50 people in there and will and greet each individual one at a time,” Philonise said. “And I used to ask him why? Why did you do that? And he would look at me and say, ‘look at me, I’m huge. People fear me when they see me, so this is the reason I go and greet everybody, to let them know that I’m okay. I’m not a threat.'”

Derek Chauvin, a former officer at the Minneapolis Police Department, knelt on Floyd’s neck for what was originally counted at 8 minutes and 46 seconds in a brutal attack that was filmed and broadcast across the internet, viewed an untold number of times. Following George’s death, protests against police brutality toward people of color began around the nation.

Protests surrounding both his murder, and the death of Louisville, Kentucky, native Breonna Taylor, were held in all 50 states and in multiple countries.

“The fact that two billion people would want to view a video like that, that’s sad,” Philonise said. “People all over the world witnessed a man being tortured to death for over 9 minutes and 29 seconds. You have to think about a fish being out of the water, the way it just flops around … you have to think about that.”

On June 10, 2020, the day after George’s funeral, Philonise spoke to the United States Congress to urge them to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which would have increased accountability for law enforcement misconduct and restricts the use of certain policing practices.

According to Philonise, his trip to Washington D.C. wasn’t just to seek police accountability for George’s death, but to seek justice for all black people who had lost their lives to police brutality.

“That was something that I never thought I would do. The fact that I went to the funeral and I was told right then and there after the funeral I would fly out, I never had a chance to grieve with my family,” Philonise said. “I was heartbroken, but I knew I had to get that message to crowds… all I cared about was accountability for George Floyd, accountability for Daunte Wright who wasn’t even murdered at the time, accountability for Breonna Taylor, for Eric Garner, for Pamela Turner, for Jason Sutherland, for Botham Jean — it’s so many individuals, Alton Sterling, people who never received accountability.”

Philonise now advocates for the end of systemic racism and police brutality with the Philonise & Keeta Floyd Institute for Social Change, an institute Philonise founded with his wife, Yocharlakeeta Dionna Brown-Floyd. Collectively, they speak out to turn their pain into purpose.

“This is something we didn’t ask for, this was something that was delivered to our front door, so we had no choice but to get out snd speak,” Philonise said.

Philonise urged listeners to contact members of Congress and urge them to work to implement the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021.

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