Harriet Tubman Center

Statement of The Harriet Tubman/Binghamton University Center in Response to the Murder of George Floyd

Submitted by Anne C. Bailey, Director

June 4, 2020

The Harriet Tubman/Binghamton University Center for the Study of Freedom and Equity was founded in 2019 to mark 400 years of the presence of people of African descent in British Colonial America.  Such an important milestone presented us with the perfect opportunity to examine closely issues relating to freedom and equity.

Our mission is to conduct interdisciplinary research on the legacy of slavery and freedom in American history and public policy. We hope to enhance Binghamton University's reputation as a place for innovation, cutting edge research and practical solutions to longstanding historical problems.

One such longstanding problem – incidents of police brutality against people of African descent and other minorities- we sadly witnessed on Monday, May 25, 2020.  The Tubman Center joins with many others at the university and around the world to condemn the brutal killing of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of four police officers and to ask that justice be served.  We are concerned not only about  this case and the unwarranted killing of Breonna Taylor of Louisville, Kentucky, but also about other aspects of the criminal justice system where higher rates of incarceration and longer penalties for minority communities have been common for decades now.  We share our concern with peaceful protesters. We also acknowledge that these policemen and their wrongful actions do not represent the entire law enforcement community as there are many who are committed to serving all equitably.  Still, reform is urgently needed.

Equity is a pressing issue as there are also disparities in education, employment, housing and healthcare.  The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the divide in the USA wherein minority communities have been much more significantly impacted.

We agree with millions of Americans and others around the world that the murder of George Floyd should serve as a catalyst to galvanize large segments of society into action. We hope such actions will not only bring about reform in the criminal justice system but in all areas of American life.

We stand ready to do our part in the development of research, writing and public policy that addresses these pressing concerns.  As part of the community of higher education, we believe that we have a unique vantage point to make a difference. This coming year, we will hold a speaker series open to the general public.  We will host speakers like Dr. Mary Frances Berry, the preeminent historian and former Chairwoman, United States Civil Rights Commission whose unique background and experience can shed light on the current historical moment.

In closing, Mr. Floyd died on Memorial Day – a day that we normally take a moment to remember those who served in the armed forces and died for our freedoms.  Mr. Floyd was not on a battlefield; he did not join the military with full knowledge that he may have to give his life for his country, yet we at the Tubman Center believe he should be honored in a similar way.

 In the end, we choose not to focus on how he died, but how he lived, because by all accounts his mission was also to better the lives of minority communities and to bridge the disparities amongst us. 

We will honor his memory by continuing this work.

Growing up, Black

By Sharon Bryant, Associate Director

June 4, 2020

At age five,
only wear a hoodie with the hood down.
call-up Trayvon Martin.

At age seven,
don’t play with toy guns in public.
call-up Tamir Rice.

At age nine,
keep your hands up, don’t shoot.
I call-up Michael Brown.

At age ten,
learned how to spell chokehold.
call-up Eric Garner.

At age eleven,
use your directional signals when driving.
call-up Sandra Bland.

At age twelve,
place your hands on the steering wheel.
call-up Philando Castile.

At age fifteen,
attended my first Black Lives Matter March.
call-up Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor,
and George Floyd.