Philonise Floyd: Shout It Out

Philonise Floyd encourages students, community to speak out on racism
Posted on 11/16/2021

“I want to change the narrative. Throughout this entire mission I’ve been on, I’ve been fighting to make sure black and brown people can walk this planet,” Philonise Floyd told a group of nearly 1,500 students from across New Orleans on Friday. “Your skin is not a weapon, no matter what anyone tells you.” 

Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, addressed the students during a rally on Friday, Nov. 12 at Xavier University of Louisiana Convocation Center.  The event is part of the Resiliency Series hosted by InspireNOLA Charter Schools and the Alliance for Diversity and Excellence. Mr. Floyd also participated in a community conversation on social justice and police reform, moderated by New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams, the night before at McDonogh 35 as part of the same series. 

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill, a nonviolent crime. Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face-down in the street.

“He murdered my brother in broad daylight. My brother didn’t even try to protect himself; he just tried to comply with the officer. He said ‘Sir, I can’t breathe.’ ,” Floyd said. “My brother showed the world that he was a human being that was killed brutally on a video that the world got to see.”

Floyd’s death ignited protests worldwide and birthed the Black Lives Matter movement.

Philonise Floyd“Ahmaud Arbery was the kindle. Breonna Taylor was the lighter fluid, and George was the flame,” Philonise Floyd said. “And people were just tired. You can’t make laws just for the elite and the chosen. You have to make them for all people. We need to get out and have those conversations about racism. Until we get people who are capable of speaking about it and comfortable talking about it, we will never get justice.”

InspireNOLA CEO Jamar McKneely told students it’s about coming together to make a change.

“How many of you are tired of covid? How many of you are tired of hurricanes causing us to evacuate? How many of you are tired of crime in our city? How many of you know a family member, a friend, a cousin, a relative, a student who has been affected by gun violence crime in our city?” he asked students, the major of whom raised their hands. “Those things that we are going through are not right. Those things that we are experiencing are not fair to you. This is a conversation of how we come together and how you can make a change.”

Floyd told the students that they would have to have hard conversations and continue to speak out to be the change needed.

“We’re going to talk about what’s going on in America today. I’m trying to make sure you all will be able to walk these streets in peace and not worry about someone murdering you,” Floyd said, adding, “It’s been a long journey. The day after the funeral, I had to go right to congress. I was talking for us. For all of us who have been afraid of police brutality. I don’t think that anybody heard me. They threw that whole law off the table.”

Dr. Blair Condoll, professor of Political Science at Dillard University and former criminal and civil trial attorney, said this is why the next generation needs to continue the fight. 

“You may ask ‘Why are we still fighting today if you all took us through this and you took care of in the ‘50s and ‘60s?’ In my professional opinion we are still fighting some of the same issues in inequality in justice because we as Black people, we took a break. And that was okay because we needed a minute to process this new social justice and freedom with thought we had,” he said. “But then one day we discovered we are not as free as we thought we were.”

Condoll told the story of poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron who famously said “The revolution will be televised.”

“Almost 50 years later, I can’t help but think about the present state of affairs. Who would have ever thought that it would in fact be the television and social media that would bring to life all of the killings of unarmed men in America, sparking the biggest social justice revolution: the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said.

Floyd said televising isn’t enough. Action is also need.

“The world saw what happened to my brother. The world saw what happened to Rodney King. It didn’t change. The video just got clearer,” Floyd said, adding that, “Social media is making society a lot better because people are willing to get out and speak out.”

Residency Rally speakers“With social media, one thing I can say is people are flipping cameras out every day. They want people to know that systemic racism exists, and you can’t hide it,” he said. “You have to get out and communicate. All of you have phones. All of you have social media. You all can pick up your phones and do anything.” 

Eleanor McMain student Ericshay Silas continued the call to action in her spoken word piece she shared with her fellow students: “We marched on and though the world has shown us spite, we will continue to prosper and show our light. We’ll crowd the streets of cities and towns and all the nation will hear our sound. And yes, we marched on.”

Floyd said he was here to help the students to take home the understanding that they are the next generation and are fighting for the same thing.

“You all need to step up and be who your mother and your father want you to be. I need you all to be leaders. To go out in the future and become elected officials. You all can go out and help people. This is what I am looking for,” he said. “This is why I am here. Because it is the younger generation who is going to change this world. I never want you to give up hope.”

Condoll re-enforced the message by telling students they need to be present and speak out.

“It is individuals like you who are going to make the difference in America. You who understand technology and have the ability to tell your stories uncut and to report on mainstream America,” Condoll said. “I suggest to you that you have an even greater responsibility given the resources you have. I challenge you: pick up the mantle, put on the armor of truthfulness, equality, and justice. Pick up your cell phones, go out into the streets of America and tell your story. Tell your victory over oppression. For the revolution of peace, the revolution against police brutality, the revolution against social injustice, the revolution will be televised by you.”

Friday’s student rally also featured interim Chief Executive Officer at Einstein Charter Schools
 Ashely Daniels, owner of We Dat’s Chicken and Shrimp Gregoire Tillery, owner of BAMM Communications Brandon Armant, Eleanor McMain scholars Denzel Bethley and Rachel JeanLouis, the Frederick Douglass Choir under the direction of Jermarcus Welch, and DJ Rude Jude as M.C.

The events were in partnership with Congressman Troy Carter, Mayor Latoya Cantrell, District Attorney Jason Williams, Gregoire Tillery, InspireNOLA Charter Schools, KIPP New Orleans Schools, Warren Easton Charter High School, Einstein Charter Schools, Elán Academy, Sophie B. Wright High School, ADL South Central Region, Urban League of Louisiana, Vera Institute, New Orleans Black Chamber of Commerce, Krewe of Athena, Abundant Life Tabernacle, and Rock of Ages Baptist Church.

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