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'There is hope in our society': How George Floyd's North Carolina family is helping underserved communities

Courtesy Thomas McLaurin
George Floyd's extended family poses for a photo at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

When George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis Police officer in 2020, Floyd's extended family in North Carolina created the George Floyd Memorial Center in Raleigh.

Two years on, the nonprofit's name has changed to the Floyd Family Center for Social Equity with the stated purpose of shining light on inequities in underserved communities.

WUNC's Will Michaels spoke with Thomas McLaurin, the organization's executive director and cousin of George Floyd.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

WILL MICHAELS: How would you say you harnessed that grief, that pain from George Floyd's murder into building a nonprofit?

THOMAS MCLAURIN: When I got the news of a man had been killed by being underneath the knee of a police officer, I didn't know it was my relative.

My cousin who lives in Clinton, North Carolina actually sent me a text message and said, "watch this video." I watched about, oh, maybe 30 seconds of it. And I called her back and I was like, "What is this?" She said, "Have you watched the entire thing?" I said, "No." She said, "That's Perry Jr.," which is what we call him. His name is George Perry Floyd Jr. "That's Perry Jr." that's underneath that police officer.

So I went back and I watched it again. That next day, I was sitting on the edge of my bed. And it was almost like a voice, a quiet voice that says, "you all have to do something. Because the world has seen this. And the world is going to know the name Floyd." It's a mission. It's a calling.

A public visitation for George Floyd took place Saturday, June 6 at Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination in Raeford, NC.
Kate Medley
In this June 6, 2020 file photo, a public visitation for George Floyd takes place at Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters of the United American Free Will Baptist Denomination in Raeford, NC.

MICHAELS: Can you give me an example of an inequity in North Carolina the Floyd Family Center has focused on and how it's doing that?

MCLAURIN: One of the things we're focusing on right now is food. Just in the metro Raleigh area, 20% of the residents that live in that area don't know where their next meal is going to come from. And so we've been working and planning and in doing this and that, and then contacting a lot of people to create a food pantry.

We've had a couple of town halls where we focused on mental health. We know that a lot of people may take the wrong path. And we've been looking at George as an example, George didn't always make the right step. There were some things in his past that, you know, we're not proud of, but we're human. And so we're working on creating programs that can address not just the individual but the family unit, and help them help the young people make the right decisions.

Yes, there is hope in our society. There has to be because if not, we're going to destroy ourselves.
Thomas McLaurin

MICHAELS: Are there specific policies in police reform or other issues you can point to that give you hope that things are changing for the better?

MCLAURIN: There is hope. Now, we know that there is a segment of America especially, that just wants to live back in the 1950s. But when I see, let's say, in the Raleigh area, the police chief is Black, the chief of police in Apex is Black, the chief of police in Durham is Black, the chief of police in Fayetteville Black.

I had the privilege of meeting these folks because we actually did a town hall. And the focus on this was how can we bridge the gap between law enforcement and community. Many of them talked about the need for better vetting officers who they hire on to the force and getting rid of those who don't see themselves as protectors of the community.

We don't have all the answers, but what we want to do is we want to bridge the resources with an organization such as Duke Energy, who has money that they want to give, to help those who are impoverished, those who are underserved. Yes, there is hope in our society. There has to be because if not, we're going to destroy ourselves.

Will Michaels is WUNC's General Assignment Reporter and fill-in host for "Morning Edition"
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