A Historic Day in Minneapolis

Rest in Power - George Floyd Painting

Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021

Dear PJHR community, 

Yesterday, we witnessed a historic moment as a jury in Minneapolis convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd. Words are inadequate to capture this moment and the many feelings that surround it. What I have to say has already been said – and said better – by many others since the verdict was announced. Yet with imperfect words I must acknowledge this moment, all of the work that went into making it happen, and all of the work that still remains. 

Derek Chauvin has been held accountable for killing George Floyd. I hope that his conviction can offer at least a small measure of comfort to Floyd’s loved ones and community. And yet. It took nearly a year of sustained activism and protest across the United States and the world – which built upon generations of protest and resistance against police violence and racist harassment of Black and Brown people - to accomplish yesterday’s verdict. Minneapolis’s decision to prosecute Chauvin and his ultimate conviction are truly historic, but we cannot yet say this is justice. Chauvin’s conviction cannot restore Floyd’s life, or the lives of so many others who have been lost to racism and police violence. 

It is not justice when a Black life matters only after it has been taken. And especially when there has been accountability in merely one case out of the dozens and dozens that have occurred in recent years. It is not justice when the odds of a police officer being convicted of murdering an unarmed civilian are 1 in 2,000 (per the New York Times this morning). It is not justice when, after a year of sustained protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, police killings have only escalated, with an average of 3 people being killed by police per day in the United States during the weeks of Chauvin’s trial. Over half of those killed were Black or Latinx. The most recent victims include a 13-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. It is not justice when BIPOC people in America live in fear every day that they or someone they love might be killed simply because of the color of their skin. It is not justice when Breonna Taylor’s life was not safe even while she was sleeping in her own bed. Or the child Tamir Rice’s life was not safe as he played in a park. Or. Or. Or… 

The system must change. 

To all of the activists who kept the spotlight on George Floyd’s murder, you have held Chauvin accountable, and you should be proud of this victory. PJHR sees you. We hear you. We stand with you. We are you. You are us. We know the work must be ongoing to end police violence, white supremacy, and other structural forms of oppression so that we can someday live in a world where all Black and Brown lives truly matter and where all people can live in safety, peace, human dignity, and equity. PJHR is committed to doing the hard work. To those of you in the PJHR community who have long done this work, thank you. Do not hesitate to let me know about your needs and how PJHR can better support you and amplify your voices. PJHR’s work to advance peace and nonviolence, social justice, and human rights is only just beginning. There is a lot more we need to do, and we are in this for the long haul. 

For those of you who are just beginning to think about police violence and racial justice, there are many resources out there for you to learn more about the issues and to get involved. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started: 

All four of PJHR’s Faculty Working Groups are also focused on social justice in some way, with much of their work focused explicitly on racial justice. Although we are about to break for the summer, let me know if you are not currently part of these Faculty Working Groups but want to get involved when we resume our activities in August. 

These words, I know, are not enough to ease the fear, anxiety, frustration, exhaustion, anger, and so many other emotions that many of you feel. But yesterday proves that there is also reason to hope. Change is possible, and the movement will make it happen. I am grateful for every one of you. Be well. 



Kelly J. Shannon, PJHR Director