- George Floyd’s death propelled his family into activism.
- His uncle said he doesn’t expect that to end with the sentence of Derek Chauvin.
- Selwyn Jones talked to Insider about how his nephew’s death changed his life.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Selwyn Jones was never much of an advocate for social justice, but that changed in May 2020, when he watched the video of then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his nephew’s body for more than 9 minutes.
As soon as the video began, Jones knew that his nephew, George Floyd, “was not gonna live in this movie,” he told Insider hours two hours after Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison on Friday.
Floyd’s death devastated every member of his family, Jones said. Many, like him, have been propelled into activism.
“One of our favorite people got murdered in the middle of the street, like a dog,” Jones said “It has changed every way that I am a man.”
Jones remembers Floyd as a big, joyful man who was full of love.
During one visit with his nephew, Jones remembers an older white woman lock the doors of her truck as they walked by.
Floyd, he said, went right up over to her open windows, introduced himself, and escorted her down the street.
“George started laughing and now he went standing over by the truck and said ‘I got you, granny. I got you,'” Jones recalled. “So he got her out of the truck, and walked her half way up the street.”
Jones said that watching that brought him joy.
“When you grow up poor, there’s only one thing you have, and that’s love. You’ve got nothing else,” Jones said. “And my nephew had a lot of love. He was a big, joyous fellow, and he didn’t get a chance to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
In the last year, Jones has spoken out against injustices in South Dakota on his nephew’s behalf, been involved in rallies, and has taken a public role that he never anticipated he’d hold.
Last July, Jones successfully pressured the Gettysburg Police Department to remove the confederate flag from their department patch – an achievement he speaks proudly of.
“I’ve always been a strong Black man,” Jones said. “You’re not going to talk bad to me and disrespect me. But as far as going beyond the call of duty as I’m going now, I would’ve never thought of this for myself – because you know what happens to the black dude that plays a part in this movie, he normally has a bad day.”
Jones said that he’s not worried about speaking out for what’s right these days, and plans continue to speak out against injustice.
Many people have made the legal proceedings involving Chauvin the main focus of their attention, but Jones said that’s not what his focus has been.
“I’m already passed that, because I can’t bring my nephew back,” he said.
Instead, he said, he wants to continue to be outspoken around a wide range of civil rights issues impacting Black men and women around the US – and not have the movement towards justice end with Chauvin’s sentence.
“I believe that things will get better, but we have to keep people going. We have to keep people wanting to make change,” Jones said. “And that’s where the big issue comes in because we got some people that want to make change all the time, and we got some people that will only do things when it’s convenient for them.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that the conclusion of the case isn’t worth celebrating.
“I reckon all I can tell you is we got to help out. We need to get some rally set up in Rapid City or Sioux Falls or Spearfish or someplace, so we can rejoice.”