In the neighborhood where I grew up, there's an intersection not unlike many others — unassuming junctions that combine to create the mosaic that is south Minneapolis.
These simple strips of blacktop, for decades well beyond the seven for which I've been around, have carried travelers in cars and buses in four basic directions — north and south, east and west. Typically, they pass in relative safety.
And then, on May 25, 2020, history unfolded its map, and together we were all lost in the longest nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds our nation has collectively endured. During those horrible minutes, 38th and Chicago became another crossroads where America would be forced to search for its true soul.
There will never be just one path we all take. One person may kneel to pray, another may take a knee to say "enough." But at 38th and Chicago we watched the leg of the law as it knelt down unmercifully and strangled the life out of a man.
But this time, as if it was meant to be, a young woman's diligence digitally captured that haunting, nonchalant stare. I have seen evil eyes filled with anger. I never knew such darkness could pierce even deeper when gazing out with casual indifference.
With a blindingly magnetic power, the eyes of that "public servant" tore at and tore out our already aching hearts.
And now in this time, with a day that is ours, the world changes forever. A movement began at 38th and Chicago, but we cannot allow it to end there. Let's begin with that focal point. But let's remember that 38th Street starts on its westernmost end at Lakewood Cemetery.
It is amid those gentle rolling hills that you will find the final resting place of Mary Jackson Ellis, the first Black teacher in Minnesota. Look a bit further, and you will also find the grave of B. Robert Lewis, Minnesota's first Black state senator.
And you cannot help but notice that the resting place of the great champion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Hubert H. Humphrey, can be found overlooking the thoroughfare upon which George Floyd took his last breath.
We owe it to both to repave that road with the promise of a more free and more just tomorrow that we can all share.
As mentioned, I grew up just blocks away from 38th and Chicago. Some days, my dad would drive us east all the way to where 38th Street ends at the Mississippi, to see the lock and dam. One particularly sunny afternoon, Dad and I sat on a bench overlooking the river. Dad informed me in an upbeat tone, "You know, Bobby, you could get in a boat right here, and go anywhere in the world!"
Maybe he was telling me that my story was just beginning, and it could go anywhere I chose to take it.
Now we have seen that George Floyd's story didn't end where 38th Street does. The outcry inspired by his tragic end rolled right down the banks of the Mississippi and sailed the world over.
The 38th parallel circles the earth and is notable for the divisions it marks. We Minnesotans must recognize that 38th Street, and what happened to George Floyd on it, has also spanned the globe — with the unifying love it ultimately created.
It is imperative that none of us rest until real change happens. President Joe Biden is one world leader among many who has referenced George Floyd. With equal parts diligence and urgency, the citizens of Minneapolis must stop quibbling about what to ultimately do with the intersection of 38th and Chicago.
We must absolutely find the wherewithal and then the resources to acquire property at that intersection — and then Black architects, Black artists and Black craftsmen must work with their white brothers and sisters. Together we must design and build a living monument that is truly worthy of George Floyd's death.
Minnesota has changed the world through the likes of Humphrey, Bob Dylan, Prince and many others. And now with immeasurable loss, we have changed it through George Floyd as well.
His tragic loss and now the conviction of the former police officer who murdered him has put Minneapolis, and thus Minnesota, on the map forever. As remarkable as the worldwide protests have been, the lasting importance of his death must be justice for ALL in America.
And if Minneapolis is now without question the starting point of that journey, then as a landmark destination for the world to see, 38th and Chicago must be home to a significant monument — one worthy of the magnitude of the movement it birthed.
Robert Elliott lives in Bloomington.