California Black Freedom Fund

Reflection on the Two-Year Anniversary of George Floyd’s Murder

Two years ago this week, George Floyd was brutally murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. His killing sparked national outrage and a global uprising. Around the world, people grieved, marched and protested the systemic racism and patriarchal violence that enabled his public death. In response, lawmakers, funders, companies and other civic leaders made commitments to address the routine state violence facing Black communities and right the historic wrongs. 

Elected officials from Sacramento, to Washington D.C., and around the world made speeches, kneeled in Kente cloth, and pledged to take action to address racism. Funders revamped their grantmaking practices, requiring fewer grant reports and increasing investments in Black-led organizations. Business and civic leaders responded by diving headfirst into diversity, equity and inclusion, making their supply chains more inclusive of Black organizations, and expressing commitments to address systemic injustice through corporate philanthropy.

While these actions are important, what is still lacking is a focus on building the power necessary to end the deep-seated structural inequities facing Black and Brown communities in the face of long-standing, state-sanctioned violence. 

Already, people once jarred by the image of watching a man being brutally murdered in the street have pivoted to new priorities. Lawmakers have retreated from innovative approaches to safety that center Black and Brown lives and community-led solutions. Too many of the companies that made pledges to support the movement have not followed through. 

In the midst of all this, a massive counter-attack on Black and Brown progressive agendas and institutions is underway – one which aims to further entrench white supremacy and seizes on the fears of a country afraid to reckon with its past.

This truth is reflected by the hate-filled acts in Buffalo, where white supremacist rage fueled a gunman to kill 10 Black people in a grocery store. The reality is that our country’s gun laws and the economic circumstances that force a disproportionate segment of Black and Brown communities to live in concentrated poverty are part and parcel of the same racist web of laws propelling this seemingly isolated act of violence. Laws that manufacture poverty, injustice and violence in Black and Brown communities ultimately fail us all. 

If, for example, the political will existed to act on demands from directly impacted communities and take swift federal action to address white violence and patriarchy, would we be mourning the loss of 10 community members in Buffalo, the devastation of a church community in Laguna Woods, and the death of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, just days later? When the voices of Black and Brown communities are not the voices driving the policy debate, the proposed solutions will continue to fail those who are the targets of racist and patriarchal violence. 

As we reflect on these tragic and senseless losses of life – from Minneapolis to Buffalo to Laguna Woods to Uvalde – we must step boldly forward and answer the call of the uprisings from two summers ago. We must invest deeply in organizations and communities to build the political power necessary to ensure our society’s collective response is not a knee-jerk one, but long-lasting, all-encompassing, and focused on the historical healing necessary to address the root causes of injustice, state violence and oppression.

Marc Philpart, Executive Director, California Black Freedom Fund

Marc Philpart was named executive director of the California Black Freedom Fund in April 2022, bringing more than a decade of leadership in advocacy working with grassroots organizations to build power for racial justice.

The California Black Freedom Fund aims to raise and distribute $100 million over the next five years so that California’s growing ecosystem of locally rooted Black-led organizing efforts have the sustained investments and resources they need to eradicate systemic and institutional racism our communities face. Our focus on “power-building” supports an interconnected and locally rooted ecosystem that gives Black community members the power to design and advocate for community agendas that reflect their needs; play decision-making roles in the policies and systems that impact their lives; and exercise power to win systemic change. By creating and accelerating a new statewide ecosystem of Black-led organizations confronting racism and anti-Blackness, this fund aims to effect the culture, policy and systems changes necessary to realize equality and justice in California.