The George Floyd mural was taking shape, one brush stroke at a time, over the last streets he walked.
An act of creation in the middle of so much destruction.
“I love that. That warms my heart,” said Diva Reynolds, smiling up at the tranquil image. “It looks just like him.”
She’s spent these days trying to comfort her 9-year-old daughter, Judeah, who had seen Floyd on the ground, handcuffed and helpless, pleading for help as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
Minneapolis is burning. The governor called out the National Guard to deal with the crowds taking out generations of pent-up rage and injustice on Target stores.
In Minneapolis’ collective grief, the corner of Chicago and E. 38th is a space to remember a singular loss.
Flowers, balloons and signs line the sidewalk. His face smiles out on posters in shop windows. There’s a table of food for those who come hungry. Donated masks flutter from a clothesline.
“It felt like a day in need of an action,” said Greta McLain, one of the Powderhorn neighborhood artists painting the new mural. She nodded to the paint and brushes. “We wanted to lend our tools. These are our tools.”
The protests that started with the loss of one life erupted into a collective reckoning for lifetimes of injustice, generations of trauma.
Every traffic stop. Every store detective, trailing black customers through the aisles. Every bank that wouldn’t help a black family get a mortgage. Every child sent off to a Minneapolis school where 88% of white children graduate on time, but a third of the black students don’t.
All that pain exploded in one night. Businesses up and down Lake Street paid the price. And the chaos spread. Across the city, into St. Paul, into the suburbs.
But in the corner of the city where George Floyd took his last steps and final breaths, there are no broken windows or shattered businesses. Just broken hearts.
In the midst of collective trauma, this is a space to remember a singular loss. George Floyd, a gentle giant who loved this city and its people.
“Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate Floyd,” his girlfriend, Courteney Ross, told the Star Tribune. “He was all about love and peace.”
Diva Reynolds loves this city, too.
“This is a very rich city,” she said. “I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about spirit. … Everybody here is full of love. But we have some things that need to change.”
She paused, her expression twisting in pain. “The hate,” she said. “The hate is killing our city. It’s choking our vines and our branches — our children. Those children are our vines and branches.”
Watching the artists at their work, she said, makes her forget some of the ugliness she’s seen this week.
“They look so peaceful doing it,” she said, watching one of the painters dab a bit of color on George Floyd’s temple. “It looks therapeutic.”