A Letter From Mikisha Nation, Executive Director of TFA Twin Cities
A reflection on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death
May 25, 2021
Dear TFA Community,
Today we remember and honor George Floyd, as a father, a partner, a friend and a man with dreams, hopes, aspirations, fears, and with people who loved him. George Floyd was a father to 6-year old daughter Gianna, a partner to Courtney Ross, a brother to Philonise and Terrence and a friend to many. He moved to Minnesota in the hopes of building a happy life for his daughter, who he loved dearly. His family and loved ones have faced unimaginable loss over the course of this past year, and my heart goes out to them today. Gianna, who talks about how much she loved to play with her father, spent the year seeing her father’s face and name everywhere. While George Floyd changed the world as the face of a movement, the celebration of his life and humanity is encompassed in the hearts of his loved ones.
Since May 25th 2020, we have seen our systems unravel before us. We have seen our community members hold things together for one another. I deeply appreciate how our community pursued, and continues to pursue, a multitude of avenues seeking justice and meaningful change; from protests, to policy advocacy, to grass-roots community work, it is apparent that we must continue to fight racism and white supremacy in all its forms. I am grateful for our corps members, alumni educators, and leaders, as well as our school and community partners at Teach For America, for the efforts to combat racial injustice and advance education equity even in the midst of unrest and against the backdrop of the challenge and loss from a global pandemic. From policing, to the justice system, to housing, healthcare and education, racism is pervasive. Racism is a verb. It’s the things that we do and the things we don’t do. The choice to act or the choice to retreat to isolation. Things that we confront and the things we ignore. The choice to be silent or to speak up.
George Floyd’s murder by police officers sits within the historical context of injustice and violence towards Black people in the Twin Cities. Resistance and resilience are woven into the fabric of many communities living through oppression on a daily basis. The gravity of this reality can be seen in the proximity of these atrocities. One shocking example is the fact that George Floyd's girlfriend, Courtney Ross, was a dean at Edison High School in Minneapolis while Daunte Wright was a student at Edison. The Floyd Family took time away from the Chauvin murder trial to comfort Daunte Wright’s family. The same communities and allies that showed up for George Floyd and Daunte Wright have pressed for justice for Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, and countless others that never made media headlines. The movement towards a better reality for Black, Brown and Indigenous members of our community did not begin on May 25th, 2020 nor does it end with Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict. It has been a long battle that has spanned decades and generations. As a community member and parent, I am grateful for the change agents that continue to play a role in the movement for justice even when the glare of the national spotlight is not illuminating their efforts.
Our students and children are watching and they are taking cues from the world around them. They are also navigating feelings of trauma while asking us, and in some cases demanding, that we take this situation seriously. What are we going to do as a community, as a country, to address the racism and prejudice influencing policies, practices, mindsets and behaviors? Are we making good on our promises to take this as an opportunity to create a better world and future for the next generation? Our children and youth deserve to learn, lead, and thrive within a society and system that is truly transformed. They deserve lasting change.
For now, I know we can move forward with love in our hearts fueling the power to create change, in ourselves, our communities and in our institutions. I hope things never go back to ‘normal’, that we continue to hold love for our community as we fight for the future of our students and youth-- so that bright young children like Gianna never lose their father to hate. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing tonight at around 8pm, I invite you to pause, honor George Floyd's life, and consider what we're called to in the year ahead.
Mikisha Nation and the TFA Twin Cities Team
- George Floyd Memorial Foundation
- Resma Menakem (trauma and healing therapist) Interview
- How you can help right now, in the aftermath of Daunte Wright’s killing
- Angela Davis NPR News conversation with school counselors on how to support students through trial and COVID-19
- Twin Cities Mutual Aid Resources
- Resources for Black Mental Health
- Trauma Informed Teaching Resources
- Children’s Mental Health Fact Sheet for the Classroom