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The stunning video footage that broke hearts … and built bridges

BY TERESA MALLAM

Mallam Unmuzzled

When you live long enough, you can see that everything in our society happens in cycles.
That includes protests and calls for action.

The faces and slogans change, so too causes and political climate. With every march, every chant, every placard, every rally, the goal is to make change, now, for the better of society.

This time, chants for change are not falling on deaf ears.

Leaders and law makers in cities across Canada and around the world are having to look long and hard to see what went wrong. How — despite all the rhetoric — in reality, racism still pervades our way of life.

I thought we — my generation — had this.
In the 1970s, after years of make love, not war, and women’s liberation, we still read books: John Griffin’s, Black Like Me, and biographies of Martin Luther King.

We praised Black achievements in the arts (movies, music, dance, design, rap culture) and in sports, space programs, science, education and medicine. 

We held seminars on inclusiveness; we adopted affirmative action plans in our workplaces. A very good start, but we left work undone. 
Now in 2020, the solidarity, the massive crowds, the vigils, the media, all focused on George Floyd, 46, an American Black man whose untimely death May 25 was captured on security footage and witness videos, for all the world to see.

The footage painted a picture of brutality and inhumanity; the shocking sight of Floyd, face down on the ground, hands in handcuffs, neck pinned under the knee of a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, while three other officers help  subdue Floyd.

I willed myself to watch a compilation of videos with time line reconstruction of events, produced by The Times. The first part of the take down I’d already seen in news clips.

But I was not prepared for what came next.

I knew that I would hear Floyd’s now iconic words: “I can’t breathe.” In fact, I heard them, several times over. But then — in a pleading, panicked voice — Floyd is heard calling out, “Mama.” Two times.

As a mother, hearing Floyd call out “Mama,” this muscled, hulk of a man who, before all this happened, was a bouncer and a personal bodyguard, it shook me. Shocked my senses.

From the recordings, it does appear that people tried to intervene. People can be heard yelling: “Get off him now”… “Get off his neck …”He’s not moving”…”Check his pulse”…”See if he’s okay”… And the accusatory, “What’s wrong with y’all? “

They were ignored … until one of their tell tale cameras got too close for comfort. Then police asked them to leave.

Hard as it was, I had to watch this footage for myself to comprehend the gravity — and the depravity — in its eight minutes and 46 seconds that brought change.   The graphic depiction stirred up something in people that has been bubbling over from deep within for years. Like an active volcano. 
And now it has erupted.

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