Terrence Floyd, brother of the late George Floyd, wants Black men and women in the footwear industry to know he’s proud of them.
On Saturday, Terrence Floyd — the founder of the social justice-focused nonprofit We Are Floyd — spoke at the 2022 National Black Footwear Forum in Detroit, where he sat down for a conversation with D’Wayne Edwards, founder and president of Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC).
The conversation was titled “845 Days Later,” a theme Edwards stated was a nod to the opportunities that became available to Black men and women in footwear because of the martyrdom of George Floyd, who was killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis 845 days prior to the discussion.
“If it wasn’t for your brother being a martyr, a lot of these folks wouldn’t have new opportunities,” Edwards said, addressing Terrence Floyd. “Unfortunately, before that tragic event happened, we were mostly ignored in corporate halls. Because of his unwilling sacrifice, he’s impacted an entire nation — if not multiple countries. Specifically, this industry that seen a direct result of his sacrifice.”
Although George Floyd lost his life more than two years ago, Terrence Floyd admitted he hasn’t had a chance to mourn because of his ongoing efforts to ensure the well-being of the Black community.
“I’m grateful and glad that our culture is staying woke, you’re not falling back asleep and getting into your regularly scheduled program. I appreciate that,” he said. “I appreciate that you all don’t let my brother’s death be in vain.”
Since the tragic event in Minneapolis in 2020, the footwear industry — specifically the athletic market — has responded with efforts to promote racial equity. For instance, Foot Locker Inc. announced in June 2020 that it would invest $200 million over the next five years to support the Black community through economic development and education initiatives. And in July, both Nike Inc. and Jordan Brand revealed massive donations of $40 million and $100 million, respectively, also with a focus on supporting the Black community.
More recently, Jordan Brand announced in August that it has entered into a 20-year partnership with HBCU Howard University to “create academic and athletic opportunities that elevate the best of the Black community, and tapped former Aflac exec Shannon Watkins to fill its chief marketing officer role in May. At Nike, Sarah Mensah became the first Black women to take the reins of North America when she was named VP and GM of North America in March 2021.
Great strides have also been made at PLC during that time. In December 2021, PLC was named Michigan’s first and only Historically Black College or University, just two months after Edwards reopened the closed Lewis College of Business with a plan to make it the country’s first design-focused HBCU. And in June, Nike invested $3 million in PLC over the next three years.
In his talk with Edwards on Saturday, Terrence Floyd encouraged attendees to keep pushing forward.
“I know it’s going to be frustrating at times, and people are not going to accept your ideas and they’re going to look past you, but don’t look at that. Know what you’re doing for and why you’re doing it,” he said. “The drive that started you is the drive that is going to finish you. Don’t quit. That’s one thing my brother always told me. He said, ‘We’re Floyds, we don’t quit.’ You use your last name and say, ‘We don’t quit, we keep going.'”
He also implored those interested in careers in the industry to fight for change from within.
“When you get into the industry, don’t get into the industry just to be in the industry. Get into the industry to make a change and create something that will have a meaning for the culture,” Terrence Floyd said. “It’s because of us, probably, that the sneaker business is a multibillion-dollar [industry] anyway. Put something in from the culture, what we’ve gone through, what we’ve been through, in that apparel so it can have some meaning and is not just a look. It’s a culture.”
Also during the conversation, the two men addressed the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd. They compared the experience to the riots in 1992 in Los Angeles, which took place a year after the police beating of Rodney King.
“We were proud of the protests, we were proud of the way people stood up for not just what happened to my brother, but what happened in our culture. But the one thing we weren’t proud about was the destruction. That was doing one thing we were like, ‘What are you doing?'” Terrence Floyd explained. “We’re the family and we’re not out here smacking cops and burning stuff up and messing up our own neighborhoods, so why are you doing it? That was the only thing we were like, “Calm down. Relax.’ Some people were out there, they didn’t know why they were marching, they were just on the bandwagon. But there were people out there that really were doing it for the cause, and we recognized that and were proud of that.”
Edwards replied, “I survived the L.A. riots in ’92. What you all didn’t see was the police were on the perimeter. If you watch any L.A. riot videos, you never saw the police inside of that war zone. They were on the outside preventing us from moving outside of our neighborhoods. The difference with 2020 was it was too late. [The protestors] infiltrated neighborhoods that were not theirs. The other two key pieces was one, everybody was captive at home to watch it and witness it, and they saw their people out there — their white kids, their Asian kids, all different nationalities out there — doing it peacefully, and some not peacefully. That was the biggest difference. Multiple cultures said, ‘This is wrong,’ and that’s probably one of the first times multiple cultures have stood up and stood out for us on tape.”