THIRD WARD - In the year since George Floyd was killed, few lives have changed like those in the Floyd family.
"It feels almost like a blur," says younger brother Philonise Floyd as I caught up with him in Third Ward where everyone passing instantly recognize who he is "Everybody’s passing by blowing their horn," he says.
With honks, waves and a slew of thumbs-up support for the Floyd family is obvious, not only in Third Ward where George Floyd grew up but all over.
"When people stop me, they're always in pain and they always start tearing up and every time they drop one tear, I drop two to three, because I still feel George’s pain," Philonise explains.
In fact, with every arrest for George Floyd’s death, each guilty verdict and every tribute to Floyd’s life, like the many murals of him, all of these things are certainly appreciated and are steps toward healing, but the family’s pain persists.
"We shouldn’t have to go and view murals," says Philonise who, of course, would rather have his big brother here instead. He says too many families of color know his heartbreak because of racial injustice.
"So many people have passed and that, to me, is really sad."
Philonise and his wife, Keeta Floyd, are taking all of that hurt and doing something to make a difference.
"It’s the Philonise and Keeta Floyd Institution for Social Change. We’re turning our pain into purpose. We promote mental health, youth enrichment," he says while showing off their t-shirts that display the name of their non-profit.
"A lot of our programs are being structured as we speak," explains Keeta Floyd.
They’re also using their non-profit organization to promote police reform, such as the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which passed the House in March 2021 and Philonise even takes part in international justice committees.
"In Ghana, Kenya, Italy, London, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil. All across the globe, people are standing with us. They want to fight for what is right," he says.
"He is very passionate and dedicated to the cause. He gets up between three and four o’clock in the morning. He’s doing interviews with the United Nations. Sometimes he doesn’t stop until 10, 11 o’clock at night. He’s received several awards," Keeta adds.
It’s a life of activism Philonise Floyd never envisioned until that tragic day a year ago when his brother was murdered on camera as Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes.
"To know that I can’t fix it. I can’t wipe away Philonise's tears. I can’t make it better. It’s an emotional rollercoaster," Keeta says.
"Before that, I was a truck driver, but this has tremendously taken over my life," adds Philonise.
A life where he still has to be dad, husband and now activist, all while he is, very much, a grieving brother who credits his faith for being blessed with bouts of comfort. That brings us back to the spot we met for the interview, a mural honoring his brother. The painting on the side of a building in Third Ward has George Floyd prominently displayed right in front of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Who knew a kid from Third Ward’s Cuney Homes would some day be here in history helping make Dr. King’s dream a reality.
"He (Dr. King) had a dream that everybody, young kids, older people would all join hands together and be able to live and George has made it come true just like Dr. King said," smiles Philonise. "It’s a feeling we can’t even explain," adds Keeta.
"George is going to be here. He’s going to be here forever," Philonise adds while staring at the mural.