A year after the murder of George Floyd that sparked nationwide protests, Black Lives Matter Lansing led a small gathering outside the Michigan Capitol Tuesday evening to pay him respects on the anniversary of his death.
Local activists, Black Lives Matter members and the organizers of the event spoke on the racial injustice faced by the Black community in the city of Lansing.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed Floyd on May 25, 2020. Throughout the summer following the tragedy, people came in support of Black Lives Matter across the country with calls to defund the police and to put a stop to police brutality.
“I'm here because I believe in the mission of Black Lives Matter,” Lansing resident Karrington Kelsey said. “I believe dismantling systems that are harmful and divesting from those, and into putting those dollars back into Black lives, back into the community here on the south side and all throughout Lansing.”
Kelsey, 29, has been a Lansing resident for about nine years and has been living on the south side for three to four years. According to him, the Tuesday event marks two things — people are once again active, but also the Black lives that were lost throughout the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to speak about all the names of Black people who have been murdered at the hands of the system and those who enable it,” Kelsey said. “So for me to have hope as a Black person on the memorial of George Floyd, I haven't seen enough work that's going to protect my offspring.”
Co-founder of the BLM Lansing, BLM Michigan, and the director of operations and policy for BLM Grassroots Angela Waters Austin spoke to the crowd about the systemic racism and spiking violence being faced by people of color in Greater Lansing.
Waters Austin, who was one of the organizers of the event to remember George Floyd, said she wanted to raise awareness to call for action for the work they still have ahead of them.
“Considering that we just put this together yesterday, we had a good response given the short notice for folks to come out on a weeknight at 9 o'clock,” Waters Austin said. “People are here and (it’s) great to see faces consistent who always show up and who always turn out for the community. So, very pleased to see our family here.”
As the speakers shared their stories of struggle and discrimination, the crowd chanted “Black Lives Matter” from time to time. Shortly before 10 p.m., the supporters raised their phones with flashlights turned on to mourn for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black lives who died due to police brutality in the past year.
The small crowd lifts their phones' flashlights up in the honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and thousands of others who suffered through police brutality and racism. People screamed "Black Lives Matter" in unison. @thesnewspic.twitter.com/vTbqpJaINM
“I'm here to stand with the Black Lives Matter and to raise awareness of what's been happening in this city for the last four years,” local activist Farhan Sheikh-Omar said. “I believe the time is now for the city to unite and for us to get folks registered to vote so that we can have a higher turnout, come August 3rd.”
Back in April, Sheikh-Omar announced his decision to run for mayor of Lansing in the upcoming Nov. 2 election, where he will be running against Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, City Councilwoman Patricia Spitzley and Larry Hutchinson Jr.
(00:35) “I've always supported Black Lives Matter,” Sheikh-Omar said. “I've organized and led many protests myself. So anytime that there's a place or an event that promotes equality, equity and justice for all, I'm there regardless of whether I'm running for office or not.”
Local activist Farhan Sheikh-Omar is speaks about racial-discrimination faced by the Black residents in Lansing. Sheikh-Omar announced to run for Lansing Mayor back in April. @thesnewspic.twitter.com/fVdWBH4rBI