Central Arkansas Coalition Marks Anniversary of George Floyd’s Death

A group of organizations is hosting a series of community events throughout the week.

George Floyd commemoration flyer

A year ago today, the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests around the world. A year later, the push for social justice and police reform continues. 

In Central Arkansas, a group of community organizations is marking the occasion by hosting Collective Voices Collective Hope: A Commemoration of George Floyd. Sponsors of the weeklong series of events include Conway Mutual Aid Collective, Faulkner County Coalition for Social Justice, Future Through the People, Hendrix NAACP, Nayborhood Activists, Ozark Living Newspaper and Reinvest in Conway.

Shaunell Henderson, a human rights major and rising junior at Hendrix College, says Floyd’s murder made her feel like she needed to take action, so she started researching how to start a local NAACP chapter.

“I really wanted to give people the opportunity to get involved,” she says.

Henderson is now the president of the newly-formed Hendrix chapter of the NAACP. Over the last year, Henderson has stayed active in her community by attending protests, signing petitions, and creating videos about systemic racism and police brutality and sharing them on social media.

“I’ve always had a really big interest in social justice, but it was more so just petitions and still trying to raise awareness through the avenues that I could,” Henderson says. “But once I finally got a position, I was able to do it more effectively.” 

Hendrix NAACP participated in an event marking the anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death in March. It was there Henderson says they connected with other organizations that are hosting events in honor of George Floyd this week.

The coalition issued the following statement about their work on social media: 

“We are a coalition of organizations out of Conway and Central Arkansas working to end police brutality in our city. As a multiracial, intergenerational, interfaith and cross-cultural  movement, we prioritize the voices of the most marginalized in our community. This includes our BIPOC, trans, queer, disabled and poor kin. We demand the Conway Police Department budget freeze for the next three years. We demand no new CPD hires are made in the next three years. We demand investment back into our communities.”

The commemoration of George Floyd’s legacy kicked-off with an interfaith prayer service Sunday followed by a virtual workshop on Monday that provided basic training for first-time protestors or those new to political protesting. The coalition is marking the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death with a community event later today. Interested participants are asked to contact organizers for details.

The rest of the week’s schedule includes:

12 p.m. May 26 — Service day at Laurel Park, hosted by Conway Mutual Aid Collective and Nayborhood Activists. During this outreach day, volunteers will provide meals and supplies to neighbors in need.

12 p.m. May 27 — Community town hall at Conway City Hall, hosted by Reinvest in Conway. This event will provide an opportunity for the public to voice their concerns to local government officials.

7 p.m. May 28 — Art memorial and candlelight vigil at Buhler Hall on the Hendrix College campus, hosted by Hendrix NAACP and Ozark Living Newspaper. Local art and a candlelight vigil will create a quiet reflective memorial space for participants.

12 p.m. May 30 — Peace at the Park at 5th Ave. Park, hosted by Future Through the People. Local residents are invited to celebrate and join together as a community at this family-friendly event.

The goal of these events, Henderson says, is “to draw attention to the fact that we still don’t have justice.” Justice would be results like police reform or freezing the police fund as opposed to just arresting one or two officers, she says.

“We want people to realize that there is still something to fight for and that these are opportunities to fight,” Henderson says. “Also just give people a sense of community and know that we’re stronger together.”

More information about the multi-day commemoration is available here.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.