While the death of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020, sparked outrage, and protests, eventually calling on the necessity for overdue change towards racialized behaviour, there were other cases with like outcomes that preceded it. Similar outcomes where fellow human beings who should be equal in all ways, regardless of the languages spoken, or skin colour, were murdered by people in the community that we all expect would protect us. George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin, who was one of four who used his knee to ultimately choke George into unconsciousness and eventually his death. George was ultimately murdered over reported suspicion of a $20 counterfeit bill in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA.
Not long before George Floyd’s death, on August 24, 2019, Elijah McClain was murdered. Elijah McClain was pursued by police after a call came to them of a man acting suspiciously as he was walking on the sidewalk in Aurora, Colorado. Elijah was a 23-year-old massage therapist, with a blood circulation disorder who has been described by many in online posts and journalist accounts as a “kind and gentle soul, an introvert, musician, cheerful, charming, humours, and positive, who often played his violin for stray cats.” He was 140 pounds.
Elijah was choked by police and subsequently injected with enough ketamine by paramedics to sedate a 190-pound man.
Both George Floyd and Elijah McClain uttered the same words, “I Can’t Breathe”, leading up to their death.
February annually marks Black History Month. It’s not just about remembering tragic events amoung the black community but taking those tragic events and continuing to ensure they have meaning while providing learning for our collective communities as we step forward together. It’s a month where history is revisited so that we can remember where we have been as we set or reset our path to where we are going. There are many events, positive events that commemorate those we’ve lost, but also the accomplishments we’ve made, and a journey towards a more inclusive future.
People contribute to historical events and future progress in many ways. A musical duo from Quebec, Canada, called the Co-Conspirators wrote a song called “The Lonesome Death of Elijah McClain”, on their most recent album, The Unreliable Narrators. “Ain’t causing trouble, ain't up to no good, I’d like to go home please sir if I could,” a chilling line in the song that aims to have us see the event through Elijah’s eyes. Equally as chilling, but on the minds of many, the song goes on to affirm, “Elijah McClain, Elijah McClain, I hope forever we’re calling out your name.”
You can hear the song on the March episode of the The Go On With Guido Podcast, complimented by an interview with the Co-Conspirators as the song and its meaning are discussed further.
While February is Black History month, it only marks a point in time to remind us, so our learning and growth can continue throughout the months following, until we come back around full circle and reflect on our progress and again, on the journey ahead of us.