COVERING A YEAR LATER: HOW LOCAL COMMUNITIES CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE FOR BLACK LIVES AFTER GEORGE FLOYD’S MURDER
TDR Regular Contributor / August 23, 2021
George Floyd left a lasting impact on Avon Park, Florida, where he went to South Florida Community College for two years. His coaches all loved him, and his classmates admired him.
“He was a very fun, outgoing person,” said former classmate Gerald Snell to Fox13. “I really remember him when he would come to church with Coach Walker. Walker would bring the team in from time to time to attend services at the Avon Park Church of Christ.”
According to Scott Dressel, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, the local police department made several changes in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. First, they modified their use of force policy. Deputies are now required to intervene if they see another deputy using excessive force.
They also increased the number of hours needed in de-escalation training, which includes training in active listening and how emotions dictate behavior.
“We have a community-oriented policing unit that spends a lot of time interacting with minority communities to try to increase non-serious encounters with law enforcement,” Dressel added. “They spend a lot of time on foot and bike patrol in what we call our Partner Communities, meeting people and having discussions.”
The community also came together in mourning. When Floyd’s former coach George Walker and his wife returned to Avon Park, which is 31.29% Black, they reminisced about Floyd’s time there.
When Floyd’s family visited in 2020, representatives from South Florida Community College, now South Florida State College, met with his son and memorialized Floyd with a basketball jersey. Floyd played the sport at SFSC.
Advocacy in Avon Park
More recently, Floyd’s son Javionne has chosen to carry on his father’s legacy in a new way.
“We don’t have problems with the police here, but we do have problems with poverty,” said Javionne. “So we’re trying to get a scholarship set up with South Florida. We’re trying to make it so we can grab kids and show them things they aren’t being taught.”
These things include building credit, buying cars, starting businesses, and anything else kids may not learn in schools. Javionne’s program would cater to middle and high schoolers in the area.
“I don’t try to focus on the negative side,” Javionne said. “If you can try to catch something before it happens, we can make things better.”
Recently, Javionne took a group of kids to pick lychee fruit off his tree and sell them to the public. The kids all got to keep the money they made. “I’m trying to show them how to make money without risking their life,” he said.
As Javionne put it, he isn’t reinventing the wheel. He has modeled his program after the RISK Club, an organization in Lakeland, Florida. Jeffery Williams, a teacher, and his team teach their kids about financial management, navigating college, and applying for jobs.
“I’m basically doing exactly what he does,” Javionne said of Williams. “He’s taking kids who have murder charges and reinventing them. When you’re a juvenile, and you get convicted or accused of something, they can still make it out if nobody gives up on them.”
Studies show that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to both commit crimes and be the victims of crime in the future, but that providing these children alternative paths can change their lives. This is what Javionne wants to do.
Remembering George Floyd
Before George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Javionne says he was in a really good place. After, Javionne struggled to get back to that.
He finally went to Minneapolis on the anniversary of his father’s death in May, which he said was the first time he was really able to enjoy remembering his father. This was also when he realized that contributing to his community would be the best way to lift himself back up.
“I just want to help people,” he said. “That was what my dad was about, helping people. No amount of money or publicity would make me happy if I wasn’t helping people in my community.”
About his father, Javionne added, “That’s part of why his death was such a tragedy. They killed a man who didn’t want to hurt anybody, who would give you the shirt off his back. He was really well known on his own.
“He had a lot of impact in the third ward, in Avon Park and, as you can see, in Minneapolis. In the places we have family, they call him Big Floyd. He’s a big guy, but he’s a gentle giant. You’re gonna notice him and love him, and he’s gonna show you love. That’s what I’m all about.”
For George Floyd, family was everything. Javionne says he used to have a saying, ‘One roof, one family.’ This meant that no matter what happened and no matter how many people were literally in one house, he loved and supported them all.
The rest of his family lives by this mantra. The George Floyd Memorial Foundation is working out in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, instilling programs like Javionne’s. “We don’t want people to think we forgot about the world after the world gave to us,” he said.