Hard days behind us. Harder ahead.
If you made it this far, there’s something Autumn Knights, age 11, wants you to hear.
“Just know that you’re strong,” said Autumn, standing with her family near the place where George Floyd died under a policeman’s knee.
Around her, the intersection of Chicago and 38th was full of flowers and murals and donations spread on tables for anyone who comes in need. There’s food and music and poetry and prayer. There are children everywhere, watching every move Minnesota makes.
The children know what happened to George Floyd, and to too many black men and women before him.
They’ve smelled smoke in the night and heard Blackhawk helicopters overhead. They’ve seen neighborhood shops, libraries, post offices and schools smashed and looted. They know Americans marched in protest and they know police beat and gassed the marchers.
This is what Autumn learned from two weeks of history and heartbreak in her city.
“Things like this happen, but you have to stand up,” she said. “Because if you just stay still, you’re helping it happen again.”
Emma, Maya and Audrey Skibbie live a few blocks from the memorial site. The sisters came by last week with their parents and a protest sign: Black Lives Matter.
“It was not OK, what that police officer did,” said Audrey, who turns 9 later this month.
“I think it would be very scary, and it would hurt, to not be able to breathe for eight minutes,” added Maya, age 10.
During these long, anxious days, the Skibbie family talked about George Floyd and all the hard questions his death has raised.
“It’s important to have honest conversations” with children, said their mother, Vang Skibbie, a child psychologist. “They’re part of this community as well, and it’s important for them to have the words to describe what’s going on.”
It’s just as important, she said, for parents to help their children feel safe.
“It’s important to give extra hugs, reassure our kids,” she said. “To let them play a little and still have some time to have fun.”
In north Minneapolis, fun was piling up at the beloved neighborhood bakery, the Cookie Cart, which offers job training to hundreds of teens in Minneapolis and St. Paul while offering cookies to everyone else.
Art supplies. Games. Yoga mats. Super soakers. Snacks.
How can we help? Cookie Cart staff asked the teens. What would make you feel better?
“Something fun,” the kids told Cookie Cart sales director PJ Stoe. “Something normal.”
The donations, the murals the students are painting at the bakery, the yoga classes, they’re all meant to help the kids focus on the here and now, Stoe said, rather than dwelling on what just happened or what might happen next.
To help the Cookie Cart, visit cookiecart.org. Their work relies on your cookie orders, and you probably know someone who could use a cookie right now.
Back at the George Floyd memorial, the Knights family is looking with hope to what happens next, starting this weekend.
Isis Knights is graduating from high school. Instead of a party, her family planned to return to the memorial with chocolate-covered strawberries to share.
Her high school, Cristo Rey Jesuit in south Minneapolis, had a few windows smashed in the unrest.
“But it’s still standing,” said Isis, who enters the University of Minnesota next fall with a double major in prelaw and political science. “Just like us.”