KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Metropolitan Kalamazoo branch of the NAACP held an event Tuesday evening honoring George Floyd on the one-year anniversary of his death.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020 after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes as he repeatedly stated that he couldn’t breathe. His death sparked protests and renewed calls for police reform across the country.
Former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on multiple charges last month in connection to Floyd’s death.
On Tuesday, more than 100 people gathered in Bronson Park in Kalamazoo to honor Floyd’s life and reflect on the last year.
“I was sick, I was sick to the stomach. I cried,” Metro Kalamazoo NAACP President Wendy Fields said as she thought about Floyd’s death. “It was hard to believe because I never ever literally watched somebody’s breath leave their body.”
Tuesday’s event started with speeches from local activists. At 6 p.m., the crowd went silent for 9 minutes and 29 seconds to symbolize the time Floyd spent under the knee of police.
“This was something that not only shook Kalamazoo but shook the world,” said activist and organizer Tamara Custard. “Honestly, I think this is just the start of the healing process. We want to restore hope and in order to restore hope, we need to show that we can come together in full solidarity regardless of where we stand.”
People wore yellow to signify hope. Organizers also handed out 181 yellow crosses that they say represented every Black life lost since George Floyd was killed. People in the crowd could be seen holding up the crosses during the moment of silence.
Some people lay on the ground in solidarity.
“I wanted to go to Bronson Park and lie down there and be close to him and feel his pain,” said Rhonda Steward, who spent the moment of silence on the ground in a similar position to Floyd in the viral video. “I just kept saying, ‘I love you. I’m here for you. I know what you went through. I love you.'”
People who attended the event say the impact of Floyd’s death can still be felt today.
“As a Black mom with an African American young man growing up in America, it’s hard. It’s scary,” said Alexia Jones as she held her infant son. “I just get so emotional thinking one day, that can be my child.”
Organizers say they wanted Tuesday’s event to signify hope for a new beginning.
“We did not want this to be about anger. We wanted this to be about solidarity. We can’t do it alone, not one entity, but we can do it together,” Fields said.
Village in the Valley, one of the organizations that helped plan the event, says they are working on a Juneteenth event to encourage community members to learn more Black history. Check their Facebook page for more updates.