MetroFocus: May 23, 2023

Three years after George Floyd’s murder, a celebration of his life at the very place it ended. Tonight, how his family is celebrating his legacy and the progress made since his passing with the annual “Rise and Remember” festival. His aunt, Angela Harrelson is our special guest.

Then,  Kurt Boone, urban photographer and author of “Fresh Plywood NYC: Artists Rise Up In The Age Of Black Lives Matter” forgotten story of the artists who painted hundreds of protest murals across New York after George Floyd was killed.


Three years after George Floyd's murder, the celebration of his life at the place it ended.

Tonight, how his family is honoring his legacy.

His aunt Angela Harrelson is our special guest.

'MetroFocus' starts now.

This is 'MetroFocus,' with Rafael Pi Roman, Jack Ford, and Jenna Flanagan.

'MetroFocus' is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Filomen M. D'Agostino Foundation, The Peter G.

Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, and by Jody and John Arnhold, Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Estate of Roland Karlen.

Rafael: Good evening and welcome to 'MetroFocus.'

It has been three years since George Floyd's murder at the hands of Derek Chauvin.

The widely circulated video of chauvin kneeling on Floyd's and sparked a wave of protests that led to a renewed focus on the legacy of Ray Vinci -- of racism in criminal justice reform.

Now the site of Freud's murder -- Floyd's murder has been renamed George Floyd square.

For the third straight year, 'Rise and Remember' will be held there to celebrate the progress made since his passing.

Joining us now to talk about the third annual 'Rise and Remember' is Angela Harrelson, George Floyd's aunt and the cochair of the George Floyd Memorial.

She joins us as part of our chasing the green initiative on poverty and injustice, and economic opportunity in America.

Let me start with this.

The book you wrote after the death of your nephew is called lift your voice: Help my nephew's murder changed the world.

Three years after his death, how much has George's murder changed your life and the lives of your family?

How is it affecting you personally?

Angela: I wrote that book.

It started as a journal.

[INDISCERNIBLE] -- the support that the world showed gave me the support to cross the finish line.

The whole thing changed me and the world.

It also gave me greater purpose in life.

[INDISCERNIBLE] You cannot help but change.

Sometimes it is still tough.

As a community, the came together.

-- we came together.

I do get flashbacks seeing the video.

And it just knowing how to do with those emotions in a healthy way.

Rafael: Let's turn to the 'Rise and Remember' celebration, which will be taking place on the 20 fifth and 26th of this month.

Can you give us a summary of what it is and how it got started?

Angela: 'Rise and Remember' got started -- we wanted to do something.

What can we do for our community, not just for my family, but other people?

It was a way for us to honor George Floyd.

We could not think of a name.

When then we thought of 'Rise and Remember.'

So we did 'Rise and Remember' and everyone started getting involved to help us.

This year our theme is -- [INDISCERNIBLE] We wanted to add on to last year.

Our goal this year -- we know how we can cause a domino effect.

What can we do now?

How can we get buildings up?

Now we want to see our visions and investment.

Rafael: We will break identity components of the celebration, but most of it will take place at George Floyd square, which is the site where he was murdered.

Let me go back to that.

You talked about how sometimes you see the video ended effects you.

How does it affect you to be there knowing what happened?

Angela: The first time I went there alone.

I remember people coming up on the exam to me, walking with me.

I did not know who they work.

They were community members.

Seven I am Angela Harrelson, -- I said I am Angela Harrelson, the ants.

People started coming up to me.

People come from all over the world.

I am like, 'wow.

They still support us, still believing less -- believe in us.'

When I go there, I am not alone.

It is a calm and sacred moment.

That is why I go there, the community.

Rafael: Let's talk about the components of the umbrella celebration.

First of all, there is a two day conference.

Angela: The conferences new.

It is going to have a diverse list of speakers.

They will have group talks, speakers.

They will talk about racism, equity.


And how people can be involved more.

Right now, we have 25 speakers for the two day conference.

Rafael: You will also have a candlelight vigil.

To understand where that would be like, let me move to the gala.

Galas are usually fundraising events.

Is that what this is?

Angela: The gala is going to be phenomenal.

We have our speaker who is -- of South Africa.

He agreed to be the keynote speaker.

And then we will have a choir.

And that is going to be amazing.

And we also will have uncle like . He is going to sing a song.

And we will have a gala bash outdoors.

Rafael: I am going to be in New York, but we will talk about what to do anyway.

And the money you collect, what are you dedicating it to?

Angela: We have two components.

One is a foundation preservation. we have Artwork that we have collected.

We have people meticulously label this artwork.

They carefully take care of this.

We also hired interns.

They will help us through this process.

And we have a program for people interested in that type of work.

And also -- in Minneapolis.

Rafael: And there is also an event focused on families.

Free of charge.

Angela: The festival will have [INDISCERNIBLE] We will have live music, a kids zone, a wellness center, a music and dance.

It is going to be amazing.

We are going to have speakers.

It is wonderful.

And the community, we look forward to this.

This is something -- because of the work they have done, despite inequality, this is something they -- Rafael: As we discussed, George Floyd's murder was an inflection point in this country.

It changed the country and the world.

I remember watching a video on YouTube of a city in Spain in the middle of the pandemic during strict lactose.

There was a huge demonstration on behalf of George.

In the short time that we have left, what is the most important change that has occurred?

Angela: We acknowledge it.

The validation that systemic racism is real.

Let us is become part of the conversation.

I have had incredible conversations with people who do not look like me.

I feel compelled to have those conversations.

Some are not always in my favor or healthy, whatever, but we are having these conversations.

Rafael: For those of us who live in New York and will not be able to make it, if we want to make a contribution, what do we do?

Angela: Go to

Check us out.

We are doing great things.

We hope to be a role model for all the communities around the world.

Rafael: Thank you.

It has been a pleasure.

Good luck on your celebration.

Angela: Thank you for having me.

Jenna: It has been two years since George Boyd's murder to protest with message that Black Lives Matter.

Businesses boarded up windows to prevent looting.

The group of artists saw an opportunity turning plywood boards into campuses.

Hundreds of morals -- murals went up in the days following Floyd's death.

Our next guest photograph this artwork across Manhattan.

This acclaimed photographer has since compiled the murals into a book.

It is great to welcome Kurt to the show.

Kurt, it is great to have you.

Take as fact to the beginning of the protest after George Floyd's death.

What was he would like in New York City?

What was it that made you had to lower Manhattan?

Kurt: I was watching various channels.

I immediately saw hectic staff on the streets.

I grabbed my camera the next day.

I went downtown to where I saw some of the protesters, first starting in media square.

There were windows broken.

I started seeing plywood.

Right after the protest happened.

I started photographing that.

Then I kept listening, caring about various places in Manhattan, not just Union Square, but the west side of 15th Street, even in Brooklyn.

There was a lot going on.

I decided I would limit myself mostly to Manhattan.

That was enough.

Then I was photographing the marches primarily.

I started photographing retailers as well, but most retailers just had fresh plywood.

It was brand-new.

A lot of them were blank.

In some areas of the city, like Union Square, so how, -- SoHo started writing negative stuff for the police.

I continue to follow the marching every day.

Eventually assign article the New York Times that indicated that artists had started painting the plywood.

They had a few pictures in the article in the New York Times.

that was around 2:18 or :20.

I went out the next data photograph or The New York Times was reporting.

I had already photograph graffiti marks.

Immediately, I started seeing these paintings on plywood in SoHo.

My first strong memories were on Prince Street and Broadway.

The trees stopped there.

There was will plywood -- real pilot, really decorative.

She happened to be a leader of a group called heart to heart.

Heart to heart was an early group that put a call out to hardiness -- two artists.

-- to artists.

I photographed her paintings.

Then across the street was another that I saw and said, 'wow.

This is a masterpiece.'

Somebody really wanted to make an impression.

That piece is on the cover of my book, fresh plywood.

That artist is Constance Pat.

For the next three months, into May, June, July, August.

By September, I realized I had over 300 murals.

What do I do with these?

I called my graphic designer.

We call her JoJo.

I said let's take these 300 murals and let's make a book out of them.

And just leave it.

I want people to believe it when I show them.

She worked a quick, put it into a PDF file.

She likes doing colors.

I give her the three images to put on the cover.

Jeep made this beautiful cover.

-- she made this beautiful cover.

I sent it to my printer in Illinois.Knowing how people react to stories , sometimes that they do not believe it unless they see it.

Jenna: I would imagine that the stories were not just what the art was conveying but why the artists wanted to pay these murals.

It must have been compelling.

Kurt: Constance Patton, who is on the cover, she is a Native American parent -- Native American.

She has strong convictions about her heritage.

Not necessarily want to to believe like her, but she conveys the heritage, where she came from.

But think that about of the streets is pretty significant for her.

She would go on to paint maybe at least 25 or 30 euros.

-- murals.

She would eventually form a group of artists.

I photographed these murals.

Artists were coming together in groups.

They would go around, look for empty plywood, and page.

Constance Patton did about 50 mu rals.

Another was about 20 years old, out there every day.

Constance's work is more Native American imagery.

It has a short ethnic feel.

Jenna: Different themes were coming through with these euros -- murals?

Kurt: Absolutely.

George Floyd was killed by police, but Breanna Taylor and other names were being painted on these plywood's.

I got the impression that not just artist, but the protesters themselves, they wanted to get in the face of these big corporations to say enough is enough.

Let's end this police brutality.

The artist painting on plywood, there was no escape.

You had to address it in some kind of way.

Jenna: The fact that you are able to be out there and capture these images, do you know what happened to some of the actual, physical artwork done on that plywood?

Kurt: Some of it.

The artist do not know what happened to it.

There are artists would paint euros and two days later it was gone.

There is an ongoing thing inside the art community where they are searching for these murals.

A lot of them are lost.

It is not like the murals where their property.

They did not give it back to the artist.

It is their, then store.

-- their store.

There were a few artists who got some of their pieces back.

In fact, in Union Square, the exhibition of maybe 10 or 12 boards will be up there.

I can send you that information.

Jenna: You can still see some of the artwork, at least the public.

You are not necessarily new to this.

I want the audience to understand that you have been photographing the streets of New York for years.

Was there something that felt unique about these protests and the artwork using, as opposed -- were seeing as opposed to years gone by with graffiti on the trains or buildings?

Was there something about this that felt different?

Kurt: SoHo, an upscale retail district.

Top brands have stores there.

That was the first thing that came to my mind.

This is not normal.

The second thing is they are being allowed to paint.

There were no arrests.

I had never seen anything like it.

The artists form their own community.

I thought that was unique in itself.

It was just something really unusual.

In all the years I have been photographing the streets of New York, it is nothing like I have ever seen.

I think it will never be back again.

It was unique.

Jenna: You also took attempt to Minneapolis.

What did you take away from being able to see the location of George Floyd's murder in the artwork that came out of that city?

Kurt: Very emotional.

It takes your breath away.

So many offerings that were out there.

Just the sense of that community setting up the memorial for George Floyd, very impressive.

I got a chance to see some of the artwork there as well.

It has an effect on you,, seen George Floyd square itself.

That was a special moment to be a part of this tragedy, being able to document it as a photographer.

Jenna: We have to leave it there.

We have run out of time, but I want to thank you so much.

Your book is fresh plywood N.Y.C.

Thank you so much for joining us and for taking the time to capture this moment in time for New York City.

Jack: Thanks for tuning into MetroFocus.

You can take our program with you anywhere you go with MetroFocus: The podcast.

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'MetroFocus' is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Filomen M. D'Agostino Foundation, The Peter G.

Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, and by Jody and John Arnhold, Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Estate of Roland Karlen.

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