April 27, 2021

Twice Our Breath Was Taken

Meanwhile Two Girls Got It Right

As we reflect on the Chauvin* murder trial and verdict last Tuesday, one can’t help but be amazed at the parallels of breath and the wisdom of two girls.  (*I try to limit use of the defendant’s name so as not to focus on him while simultaneously begging folks to refrain from referring to the proceedings as the “George Floyd” trial since he was not the individual being tried).  You see in a trial that focused on the death of a man who said he could not breathe, a man who had the breath suffocated out of him for over 9 minutes, and 10 months later it was us, those who were watching and waiting for the verdicts to be read, who ironically found ourselves holding our own breath in anticipation.

George Floyd had his breath taken away from him, we likewise nearly had our breath taken away wondering would we hear a favorable outcome. As the verdicts of “guilty”, “guilty”, and “guilty” were announced, unlike Mr. Floyd, we were able to let out a breath following each charge in sheer and utter relief.  His breath was denied, ours was finally allowed to exist in a very collective exhale. Two very different breathing experiences with one ultimately predicating the other.  Thank you prosecuting team (you won’t hear me say that often since for systemic reasons we tend to most often be on the defense) for your amazing work and thank you jurors for doing the right thing.

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Also, directly related to our renewed breathing are two girls; one younger, one older.  One is the daughter of Mr. Floyd, the other was one of his invaluable “videographers”.  Not long after her father’s death, George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna prophetically exclaimed, “Daddy changed the world”. While his death has not ended police assaults on African Americans (far from it) his highly visible murder caused people around the world, and especially in the U. S. to more intentionally reckon with the horrific injustices of race in the criminal justice system, in the classroom, in corporations, and in so many other arenas. Mr. Floyd’s death actually did change the way many folks processed their thoughts, deeds, and actions.  Statues were removed, streets and buildings were renamed, curriculums were reassessed for inclusivity, and the list goes on of the changes made following the world’s viewing of the horrifying video footage. Yes, he did change the world.  Maybe not totally, but change nonetheless.  

Video footage of Mr. Floyd’s assault came from several sources, however the one that best captured the extent to which George Floyd suffered was an 8-minute plus phone captured video by then 17-year-old, Darnella Frazier. Young Miss Frazier recognized immediately that what the officer was doing was wrong.  Instead of standing by and doing nothing, she chose to film what was happening.  As a result, the whole world saw in vivid detail the gruesome nature in which the officer and his colleagues refused to cease their heinous conduct. Frazier’s video did what Gianna proclaimed her Daddy had done.  Some have said this video was as crucial as the famous Zapruder film following President Kennedy’s assassination. Others suggested that her “short-film” was more deserving than this year’s Oscar winners. Regardless, in the end, her courageous action not only made a difference, it made the earlier mentioned changes possible.  Her video was undeniable evidence needed to achieve guilty verdicts.  Two girls, two breaths and the hope for the future.  

Stay well, stay safe, stay COVID smart, and continue to do good work,


"It’s all about the students",

Dereck J. Rovaris, Sr
Dr. Dereck J. Rovaris, Sr.
President, AABHE


  • It’s not too late.  Come join us for our Leadership Mentoring Institute (LMI) to be held virtually in July.  Be on the lookout for more information

  • Three of AABHE’s Board Members, Drs. Silver, Smith and Rovaris will be featured presenters in the 100 Black Men of America’s White Papers on Education. Wednesday, May 4th, at 6:30p.m. (EST) / 5:30pm (CST). Join live via Facebook and YouTube at @100BlackMenOfAmerica