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One never imagines witnessing the killing of a loved one on national television. The world knows my brother as George Floyd. Strangers carried his picture as a beacon for change and shouted his last words in protest. I know deep down who my brother really was. To me, he was just Floyd.
He had a heart of gold, and like a true big brother, he was a protector, a friend, and someone who would be there till the end for our entire family. On Floyd's last trip to my home in North Carolina, I left him with a specific list of assignments and chores that I wanted my kids to do by the time I got off work. When I got home, I saw that he — just like a typical uncle — had spoiled them and nothing got done. I couldn't do anything but shake my head, but it showed his commitment to his family.
Sadly, I don't have the opportunity to create new memories with Floyd, hear him laugh, or crack jokes. Now I’m focused on making sure the world never forgets him. While this journey has been a painful one, I’m turning my pain into purpose.
My brother would always say to me, "I'm for ya," and it's an honor to know that today — and for the rest of my life — I'm for him because he can't be here. I've learned that my voice counts and I will use it for positive change. I knew I had to be able to speak freely about the trauma that my family and I faced without worrying about what others said. I found my voice and my purpose during one of the scariest moments of my life. Through my role as a community leader and activist, I empower others to understand and also become advocates for change.
I'd seen many Black Americans killed by police over the years, but it always seemed distant — until it's at your front door. While I lost a brother, my sons (ages 7, 8, 11, and 13), who will grow up to become Black men, also lost an uncle. For Black Americans, our "talks" in living rooms aren't just about the birds and bees, but about protecting ourselves against systemic racism and what to do if we're ever stopped by police. This talk with my sons unfortunately comes with my brother's real-life example. It's also part of the reason I feel an extra sense of responsibility to rally for change. The work we do today will influence our society tomorrow, and I hope to one day live in a time when Black mothers and fathers won't have to prepare our sons and daughters for a world that views our children as threats.
There simply can't be two justice systems in America — one for Black America and one for the rest of America. We need and deserve an equal justice system, and the advocacy work we do now can change that for our children. Through the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, my family has been able to give back to communities and causes that meant so much to Floyd, including mentoring and volunteering. I know the work I’m doing on his behalf will continue to empower many generations to come. And I am eternally grateful to the freedom fighters of Black Lives Matter. It is because of them and their outrage that I believe my brother is getting justice.
Last year, there were days when I didn't want to get out of bed. I was angry, disheartened, and scared. But when I was driving from my brother's funeral, seeing hundreds of well-wishers lining the streets expressing their condolences, I knew I could not just stay down. I realized that I had two choices: I could either be the victim or the victor over my situation. I chose the latter.
I quit my job as a full-time federal employee to be a full-time mom to my four boys. I went into mommy mode to protect my children from the media firestorm that would ensue after a situation of this magnitude. I'd spend most evenings helping with homework and cooking, but I simultaneously became a voice and a face for an international movement that I had no idea I’d ever be a part of. I made it a priority to speak out to the media because, at one point, the killers of my brother roamed the streets free. I knew if I didn’t speak up, the authorities would possibly let his death be swept under the rug. At another point, I uprooted my entire family to go to Florida, a battleground state, to encourage people to vote. It was a time when I felt that Floyd was smiling down on me from Heaven.
If I didn't get up, get dressed, and start my day, I wouldn't be honoring my brother's legacy or fulfilling my purpose. I began planting seeds of hope, because if not me — then who? I simply had to do my part. I know that God qualifies the called.
My heart and the trajectory of my life have forever been changed. With that, I will continue to fight for change. It's what my brother would have wanted. And if he were here today, he would be proud that his family is carrying this torch for him.
This story originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.
Originally Appeared on Allure