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As Police Trial Begins, Healing and Social-Justice Work Evolve in MN

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The May 2020 police killing of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests over police treatment of Black communities. (Mike Moen)
The May 2020 police killing of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests over police treatment of Black communities. (Mike Moen)
 By Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN - Producer, Contact
March 8, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Barring last-minute changes, court proceedings begin today in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd.

Amid worldwide coverage, local faith leaders and others remain focused on healing and righting racial inequities.

Images of extra security and throngs of media bring up an array of emotions for the Black community nearly a year after Floyd's death sparked massive protests and civil unrest.

P.J. Hill, communications director at Worldwide Outreach for Christ, a church near the south Minneapolis corner where Floyd was killed, said the initial pain felt by many folks never went away, but is at the forefront again.

"What we witnessed was a nine-minute murder of a man, and something inside all of us broke," Hill recounted. "And so, trying to deal with that trauma over these last 10-11 months and then now, having it rehashed and reopened with the trial."

The church is hosting an outdoor event each Saturday where people can gather for communal healing.

Hill explained it helps counteract the pain and hopelessness they've felt.

And local organizations, like the Headwaters Foundation for Justice, continue to administer special grants for groups that use a community-organizing approach to advance social justice. Headwaters is also located in south Minneapolis.

Venessa Fuentes, director of Network and Narrative at the Foundation, said they're expressing solidarity through their grant-making.

She noted they feel a responsibility to be a conduit for grassroots groups that need help elevating their voices at a time when more people are listening.

"Everyone's looking to us to make sure that we are getting those messages out, that we are getting them out consistently and that we are maintaining our relationships," Fuentes outlined.

She pointed out many grantees are Black-centered and closely engaged at the community level.

Last summer, the Foundation launched a rapid response fund that allows more funding to flow to groups doing frontline work.

Fuentes added because of their ties to these groups prior to Floyd's killing, there's an emotional component to the grant support, and that has an impact on staff members.

"How are we able to give ourselves grace and ask for help?" Fuentes wondered. "And how can we help each other and find instances of joy in the midst of the trauma and the ongoing re-traumatization?"

The trial for three other former Minneapolis police officers tied to the case is scheduled for later this year.

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