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  • Helanius J. Wilkins

8 Minutes, 46 Seconds

Today marks one year since the day when George Floyd was murdered by a then-Minneapolis police officer. Captured in a bystander video, this tragedy in many ways lands on my body now as if it happened yesterday. The thought of the inhumane event causes me to well up inside and experience flashbacks of every time I brushed up against heightened moments of fear because I am a Black male in America. I have never been able to watch the full video nor will I ever. Reflecting on George Floyd’s murder, I am also holding close how it has become the initiator for significant mobilization - unified demands for police reform and the addressing of structural racism on a national level - and globally, something I have never seen before.

I hold Floyd’s murder as something that should have never happened. I continue to hold space for the many he was taken away from and whose healing I can only imagine may take a lifetime, and then some. I also hold Floyd’s murder as something that has become a catalyst for moving the needle on collective actioning and waking up the greater masses from continuing to turn a blind eye on the constant, disproportionate murdering of Black lives at the hands of those who are supposed to serve to protect all. Of course, all is the operative word given that “all” was never meant to include Black people.

At this moment, for me, something feels slightly different. That feeling is possibly the result of the energy and efforts taking place in my inner circles, or how I am holding on/wanting to hold on to the belief that more broadly – nationally and globally – people are not only returning to life as usual but, rather, finding ways to transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping a pulse on accountability and a commitment toward a more socially-just landscape. That feeling is possibly the result of witnessing – finally – instances of police being charged for the crimes they have committed. That said, I acknowledge that as I write this, countless Black lives have continued to be taken by police since that of Floyd’s, there is a rise in Asian and Anti-Semitic hate crimes, and political efforts are being made to suffocate the educating of America’s dark past and critical race theory. So, where does this leave us in terms of working toward change – a different future that is more socially just?

In my own way, I continue to action by doing. Last summer I began to walk solo — up to 16 miles a day — in protest and with purpose. That led me to setting into motion my most ambitious project to date, The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-Body Belonging. Most recently I resumed that practice and have been walking solo 14 miles a day to continue unlearning fear, to reflect on what it means for me to have a resilient body in this moment, and to cultivate space that expands from self-care and toward community care. I sense these things will contribute to what becomes my creative process and rehearsals, beginning next week, for The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-Body Belonging. This duet centers two male bodies, one Black, one white, and the value of bodies coexisting - sharing weight and responsibility, dancing to become better ancestors.

I have been thinking a great deal lately about how my artmaking, when I strip away all the things and leave only the bare bones, emerges from a place of being broken-hearted, from a space of longing, and from a relentless audacity to hope. One year later, I remain broken-hearted by what happened in 8 minutes and 46 seconds to the life of George Floyd and the lives of so many more. One year later, and as I wrote in a previous blogpost, I remain longing for the day when I can inhale and exhale, and imagine that exhale is releasing from my Black body all what it means to be living while navigating systems that were not designed for bodies of culture to be included. One year later, I am more inspired than ever to keep hope alive. I am actioning the change I want to see, and creating meaningful conditions for allyship, through The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-Body Belonging, a project that is allowing me to engage in constructing a vibrant landscape of potentiality.

*I want to acknowledge my use of 8 minutes, 46 seconds as symbolic to a time that ignited action. It was determined during the trial that the length of time the office was kneeling on George Floyd's neck was 9 minutes, 29 seconds.

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