The intersection of 38th and Chicago was once so familiar to me.
I grew up in a nice two-story house that by Dad built at 5844 Elliot Ave. Our house was separated from Chicago Avenue by nothing but an alley and was located just two miles from where George Floyd died after the knee of a police officer was applied to his neck for almost 10 minutes.
When my parents divorced, my Dad moved to 4826 Chicago, where he lived above the womens clothing store he owned at the address. I spent a lot of time in that south Minneapolis neighborhood just 10 blocks from where memorials stand today honoring George Floyd and the sacrifice of his own life in the name of racism.
Last Saturday, I visited Lakewood Cemetery to visit the grave sites of my Dad, his wife, and my youngest sister.
From a downtown freeway exit I drove up Hennepin Avenue to Lake Street where I was moved by the amount of damage done at the hands of looters, criminals, thieves, and protesters.
I was also emotionally moved by how a sight so awful and bone-chilling was being transformed that Saturday afternoon into a thing of beauty as community members took to cleaning the streets of their neighborhoods and street artists transformed plywood hung from the doors and windows of looted, damaged, or destroyed businesses into amazing works of art that memorialized George Floyd, depicted the strength and unity of Minneapolis as a community, and reminded people to share their love.
After my cemetery visit I was drawn to 38th and Chicago. I drove the mile from the cemetery to the place where George Floyd died.
I didn’t know what I would find when I got there. Maybe I was a bit scared. For sure I was apprehensive.
As I got close to my destination, the streets were filled with cars. People were trying to find parking as if we were all at the Minnesota State Fair.
I parked. I walked two blocks. I began taking in the approaching area with my eyes, my ears, and my nose.
Pedestrians with brightly colored clothes, signs, and flowers filled the area. The sound of people talking, crying, praying, protesting filled the air. The smell of ethnic foods cooked by members of the Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities wafted from grill-lined streets.
What was before me wasn’t the angry demonstration I had expected to find. Before me was a gathering of a community at a street festival spreading love, sharing each other’s heartbreak, and coming together as one.
I walked over to a small crowd about 100 yards from where people were laying flowers in George Floyd’s memory and leaving card board signs marked with strong messages. A woman with a megaphone was respectfully talking about George Floyd and encouraging us to say his name. “What was his name?” the woman would ask. “George Floyd,” the crowd responded.
Like others, I stood there and said George Floyd’s name. I felt comfortable doing so. And I felt comfortable doing so alongside the two black men on each side of me, and the two young teenage black girls in front of me. We were all there together. We were honoring George Floyd as one.
I don’t know what I expected to find when I drove to 38th and Chicago that Saturday afternoon.
But I can tell you what I did find.
Brothers. Sisters. Their skin color black and white.
They praised what was good in the world. They anguished over what was not.
History was made at the corner of 38th and Chicago when George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police.
History continues to be made at that now historic corner where hate appears to be in the midst of being replaced by love and understanding.
Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org