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Statement From Dr. Jarvis Watson on the Anniversary of the Death of George Floyd
May 25, 2021
Protesters march down a city street holding up posters featuring an image of George Floyd. The photo is in black and white.

Photograph by Chris Facey (BFA 2021 Photography and Video).

Credit: Chris Facey

“This photo was made to represent how much of an impact Black women had on last year’s uprising. Most protests were organized and led by strong Black women, with Black men alongside as well as behind them—both figuratively and literally. As with most of my work, I strive to show accurate representations of Black men and women as well as debunk the stereotypes that society and systemic racism have placed on us.

“One year later, I still feel there is much more work to do. At the very least, we have shown you that we (my fellow Black men and women) are damn near unstoppable when we come together. I feel like we should make sure to keep this momentum and keep our hearts and mind focused on the main goal while standing firm in our fight for equality. Long story less long, we still have more work to do.”

Chris Facey (BFA 2021 Photography and Video)

Dear SVA community,

One year ago, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a police officer who had arrested him for a nonviolent crime. When I watched the nine-minute film of Derek Chauvin placing his body weight on Floyd’s neck, I was reminded of horrific images of Emmett Till and countless numbers of Black people who have been lynched in America. Floyd’s death was one of many examples of the systemic racism that exists within many American institutions. He and countless other souls such as Taylor, Castile, Brown, Bland and Garner reignited the #BLM movement globally. The invisibility of being Black, Indigenous, and a person of color in America would no longer be accepted. The protests, demonstrations and calls for justice have been recognized by world leaders, marginalized communities and allies.    

In Congress, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was proposed to ban chokeholds, end qualified immunity and hold problematic officers accountable. In addition, the bill would prohibit racial and religious profiling and redirect funding to community-based policing programs. This bill has the space, time and opportunity to eradicate the unchecked power that law enforcement has on the lives of BIPOC communities; however, Congress has yet to pass this bill.

Today, the NAACP has organized the George Floyd Virtual Day of Action and is asking all Americans to call their state senators and urge passage of this critically important bill. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to contact your representative and make your voice heard. For more information, click here.

Without police reform, BIPOC communities will continue to suffer from a system that is not designed to protect the rights of historically marginalized groups. At SVA, our students have demonstrated through their art, written documents and through their voices. At this time, BIPOC communities and allies need to work together to hold our local and state officials accountable for passing this and other laws. Black Lives Matter must be coupled with a sense of urgency and strategic action. The bill must be passed. 

Additionally, the George Floyd Memorial Foundation is holding a celebration today in Minneapolis to honor the life of George Floyd. The event is scheduled to run from 12:00pm through 6:00pm ET; click here to watch it online.

In Peace and Solidarity, 

Jarvis M. Watson, EdD

Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 

School of Visual Arts