The African American Cultural Center kicks off Black History Month, seeking justice, love and change

Pictured is a protest with people holding signs relating to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. On Feb. 3, the AACC held a ceremony for Black History Month with the UConn School of Law, and in presence was Philonise Floyd, the brother of late George Floyd. Photo credits to Shane Aldendorff

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was placed under arrest by Minneapolis police. Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over nine minutes, killing him before he could even make it to the station.  

About a year after his wrongful death, the City of Minneapolis announced a settlement of $27 million to be paid out to Floyd’s family, represented by Benjamin Crump. Specializing in civil rights, Crump has also represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Martin Lee Anderson and Breonna Taylor — all victims of racial injustice.  

Even more influential than the record-setting settlement was the nationwide resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

On Feb. 3, the African American Cultural Center held an opening ceremony for Black History Month in collaboration with the UConn School of Law. The virtual event’s keynote speakers were renowned civil rights attorney Crump and brother of the late George Floyd, Philonise Floyd.  

Despite being held virtually, presence was strong, with over 200 students tuning in to kick off Black History Month at UConn. Introductory remarks were made by the AACC’s director, Dr. Willena Kimpson Price, followed by Alicia Keys’ rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” First performed in 1900 for Lincoln’s birthday, the piece serves as a testament to strength and perseverance and has been named the “Black National Anthem” by the NAACP.  

After the touching song, moderator Geoffrey Young, a student at UConn Law, sifted through incoming questions to ask Crump and Floyd. The audience learned about their path towards civil rights and received profound advice on how to be an ally to the Black community.  

Crump discussed his own time in law school, where he was taught the importance of precedent. But he refused to wholeheartedly accept the thought, because had precedent been continuously upheld, much of the nation would still be in chains today.  

Throughout the discussion Crump, perhaps jokingly, referred to Philonise Floyd as “attorney” or “my congressman.” Yet, it was clear the weight of those titles rang true, as Floyd passionately spoke about seeking justice for not just his brother, but for the Black community as a whole.  

“To me, bottom line, there has to be a better way to serve and protect. if you’ve got something to hide, it’s a problem.”

Philonese Floyd

When asked about the impact of his brother’s death, Floyd said, in an act reminiscent of his brother’s last words, “I feel like I still can’t breathe right now.” 

Harping on the fact that so many Black lives have been lost, not due to natural causes, but by police brutality, Floyd encourages real change.  

“To me, bottom line, there has to be a better way to serve and protect,” Floyd voices. Speaking in favor of implementing required dash cams, Floyd says, “If you’ve got something to hide, it’s a problem.” 

In turn, Crump looked back on U.S. history, full of injustices still ingrained in society today. Why are BIPOC still being lynched today? He cited the Declaration of Independence, which claims to endow us with equality.  

“Yet, look how they kill our children and young people slowly: in every city, in every state, in every courtroom,” Crump remarked.  

Crump also recommended staples for one’s library, deeming the following books as required reading: “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and “The New Jim Crow,” along with Floyd’s yet-to-be-released book.  

Winding down with words of encouragement and choruses of “amen,” Dr. Price concluded the inspiring event with the parting words, “May love fulfill you.” 

Stay tuned for future Black History Month events hosted by UConn’s AACC by checking out their website or Instagram.  

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