Reflecting On the Anniversary of George Floyd’s Murder

A mural with a yellow background and a painting of George Floyd with the words "Black Lives Matter" written behind his head in black, green and red lettering.
Untitled mural created by artist Comfort Wasikhongo on State Street in Madison in June 2020; photographed by Martin Jenich. Image originally posted on madisonmurals.com for the “Let’s Talk About It” project. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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I often begin my morning in self-reflection and gratitude as part of a mindfulness program using the core tenets: pause, breathe, and love. Folks in contemplative sciences and other mindfulness practices recommend reflection as an act of well-being and self-care. When you arise each morning, do you reflect on the days before? Well, today, I can do nothing but reflect on being Black in America. A day, one year ago, when yet another Black man’s life was violently ended and viewed through the despicable lens of racism. How and why does this deep-seated hatred, a health crisis of a different kind, consistently stymie a nation seeking peace and progress?

George Floyd should be alive today. As we mark the anniversary of his murder by a Minneapolis police officer, our thoughts are with the Floyd family and the families of the countless other Black victims of racist violence. All of us need to stop what we’re doing and remember what happened to George Floyd. We remember George Floyd and his last breath, and the countless additional lives lost to violence, illness, or neglect.

A large crowd of demonstrators wearing face masks and carrying signs in support of Black Lives Matter and social justice reform.
Demonstrators march against racism and racial injustice at a Black Lives Matter Solidarity March on June 7, 2020. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW–Madison)

The nationwide rallies and cries for social justice taught everyone more about the trauma and pain felt by generations. Together, we challenged ourselves and others; we marched, signed petitions, donated, created art, contacted our elected officials, joined local organizations, educated ourselves, and found ways to use our power to help shape a better world. And while we were heartened to see a court hold Derek Chauvin accountable for his actions, we know that one verdict does not bring back a life that was taken, nor does it bring about the systemic change we need to shut down racism. But perhaps it can be a catalyst for change and begin the process of healing.

Let’s acknowledge that many of us are still hurting and must think about how we use this pain to move forward and make a difference. Let’s continue to work together to keep a focus on ending police violence and assaults on Black lives and vow to engage in meaningful dialogue and reflection on how to create an anti-racist society. That is the best way to honor the lives of George Floyd, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Tony Robinson, Ma’Khia Bryant, and so many others.

This past year was indeed filled with trials, hard work and transitions. The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement celebrates the resilience of the class of 2021, and their peers, with 350 graduates from DDEEA educational achievement programs. You can read more about these outstanding scholars, now alumni, and about a new student advisory board, as well as our plans for Diversity Forum 2021: Rising Above and Reshaping our World in the Image of Justice. And I encourage you to learn more about and become more involved in the work being done on our campus to make lasting change, through resources like the Diversity Inventory, Campus Climate Progress Report and Diversity Framework.

We’ve learned so much about how to bring pressure for change on our systems while advocating for justice. Pause today to remember and acknowledge that we know there is much more work to be done for true justice to prevail. Breathe today to center your humanity and self-care. Love today; let us acknowledge and support one another. As always, I am in community with you to continue doing the work we must do to see our collective change realized here.

In community,

Cheryl B. Gittens
Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion
Elzie Higginbottom Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer
Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement
University of Wisconsin – Madison