For the first day or two after George Floyd’s death, I sat at home, disturbed. I didn’t know what to do. Part of me was trying to find ways not to believe it. To remain in denial. To believe that Mr. Floyd died of a heart attack, or some other medical issue. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that he was murdered by a white man who was sworn to protect him. A man that didn’t care about his pain or his life or his cries to his mother.
I felt so broken– for the innocent man that had lost his life, and also selfishly because I knew my white skin would somehow mean that I played a role in a system that caused his death. In that moment I remember wishing I had been born anything but white. My heart so vigorously wished to not be categorized or associated with anything that was oppressive to another. I wished there was a way I could wear my heart on my sleeve so that every passerby knew exactly who I was and who I most certainly wasn’t.
I felt helpless. Most of my friends are black, so I began by reaching out to them in our group chat and on the phone to let them know I was thinking about them and that I was there for them.
“How can I help? What can I do?” I asked my friend Steven.
He said very simply “make photographs.”
I knew he was right. I’m not rich and live paycheck-to-paycheck so donating would be nearly impossible. I already have my vote ready for when the time comes. I knew that right then, giving my life’s purpose to this cause, was the right thing to do. Hearing one of my best friends say it, knowing his struggles since he arrived here from Nigeria, gave me the courage to step out and begin.
I would not sell the images. I would be there to document what was before me. I would be there to lend my voice to the chants calling for change. I would be there to get between the police and black bodies if needed. That was all.
Over the next few weeks, I went to many protests.