On the anniversary of George Floyd's tragic death in Minneapolis, Americans are honoring the memory of the 46-year-old Black man who was killed in police custody — as well as recounting the many ways the nation has changed during the past year.
After a former Minneapolis police officer pinned Floyd to the pavement, and the world watched the video of his death, we were catapulted into a racial and social justice reckoning.
Though much remains to be done, a lot has been accomplished since May 25, 2020. The officer responsible for Floyd's death was convicted of murder — a previously rare outcome in cases in which cops have killed Black men or children.
Colleges have established scholarships in Floyd's name, and the foundation created by his family has awarded education stipends to aspiring students. Some policing practices and policies have changed. And the pleas for justice that gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement have been heard and taken to heart by millions of people of all races across the nation and the world.
In the wake of rioting that followed Floyd's death, communities have rallied to clean up and rebuild in his adopted Twin Cities, vowing to make sections of Lake Street and West Broadway in Minneapolis and University Avenue in St. Paul better than ever.
The recovery efforts have received a huge boost from the Minneapolis Foundation's Restore-Rebuild-Reimagine Fund. The ambitious initiative has raised about half of its $20 million goal from corporate partners to assist small businesses in the three commercial corridors. Started with a challenge grant from the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, the fund has received donations so far from Target Corp., the Donaldson Foundation and the Mortenson construction firm.
The fund represents one of several efforts to raise capital for affected businesses and property owners. Twin Cities LISC, Lake Street Council, the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation and other organizations also raised millions of dollars to assist businesses facing an estimated $550 million in damage, only about half of which is expected to be covered by insurance.
An inspiring video produced by the Minneapolis Foundation features several entrepreneurs of color who enthusiastically want to rebuild and reopen. Minneapolis Foundation President and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told an editorial writer that several of them are part of a "legacy of immigrants" who came to Minnesota for a better future and are committed to their communities.
"These are real heroes," Rybak said. "Business owners who have had buildings burned and looted and are still ready to reopen and add to their business. Many fled wars and strife in their homelands. There's no one who understands better what it means to rebuild than these business owners. That's why we're investing in them."
The Minneapolis Foundation-led effort is needed and welcome. In addition, the state should offer financial help for businesses. Unfortunately, partisanship is getting in the way.
Early in the 2021 session. Gov. Tim Walz called for $150 million in aid. Then in February, a House subcommittee voted to double that to $300 million. So far objections have lined up along party lines, but there's one more chance for the Legislature to support the core cities during the June special session in which they are expected to pass the budget.
Floyd's horrific death brought some Minnesotans together — including those involved in rebuilding the damaged commercial corridors and the business owners they are helping. As the Rev. Al Sharpton said on Sunday during a rally in Minneapolis, "George Floyd is not going in history as a martyr. He's going in history as a game changer."