It's been nearly a year since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. Boarded-up storefronts, buildings set aflame and days of protests are burned into people's minds and hearts.
For Leesa Kelly, Kenda Zellner-Smith and Tina Burnside, last May's uprising sparked a mission they hope to pursue for years to come.
Zellner-Smith and Kelly both started collecting the plywood murals that artists painted with messages of solidarity, portraits of Floyd and demands for an end to racialized violence and inequality. They soon joined forces under the banner Save the Boards to Memorialize the Movement with the support of Burnside, of the Minnesota African-American Heritage Museum and Gallery.
This weekend, 86 of the preserved murals will be on display at "Justice for George: Messages From the People," an event at Phelps Field Park, just a block from where Floyd died, to give the community a space to remember and grieve.
"We want people to really reflect on what happened," said Burnside. "The art was created because George Floyd was murdered. We want people to ask what they can do to bring about change. To fight for racial justice."
Zellner-Smith, Kelly and their crew of more than 40 volunteers have preserved nearly 900 boards, storing them at the Northrup King building in northeast Minneapolis while raising around $60,000 to support the effort.
Kelly said the organizers "know it is going to be a heavy exhibit, that it will bring up a lot of trauma and grief. But we also want this to be an opportunity to talk about our trauma and process as a community, and talk about ways we can make positive changes so that this doesn't happen again."
Envisioned as an annual remembrance, the exhibition will run Friday through Sunday. Since it will be especially painful for Black people, the event also offers a space of healing and positive processing, staffed by mental health professionals who are people of color. That includes Free in Color Arts, an organization that provides creative programming to explore identity, community and culture for people of color and immigrant backgrounds.
As many as 18 artists will be present to paint new boards, calling for a continuation of the movement. Arts organizations such as Creatives After Curfew, the artist collective that painted through the uprising, will have a table at the event. Performers, speakers and musicians will also participate.
"We are hoping allies and non-Black people come into this space and get a glimpse to see what it's like to be us, even if only for a second, and we hope that glimpse changes them," said Kelly. "We hope they give themselves to this movement in the same way Black people don't have the choice not to do."
The event is not "sugarcoated or dumb-downed for non-BIPOC people to take in," added Zellner-Smith.
After all, the killings haven't stopped. A new influx of boards popped up around the Twin Cities after a Brooklyn Center police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright during a routine traffic stop just days before former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in Floyd's death.
But this weekend's event is also about making sure Floyd is humanized, not just a hashtag.
"What was his favorite food? What was his favorite thing to do on the weekends?" said Zellner-Smith. "We want to make sure that people feel heard and supported. ... That these artifacts are saved for the BIPOC community, and that the narrative is told — that it's not just a pretty story."
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Justice for George: Messages From the People
When: Noon-8 p.m. Fri.-Sun.
Where: Phelps Field Park, 701 E. 39th St., Mpls.
Admission: Free, but register in advance via memorialize themovement.com.