A sculpture of George Floyd was unveiled outside of Newark, New Jersey's city hall this week. The 700-pound bronze statue will remain in the New Jersey city for at least a year, to honor Floyd, who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis in 2020.
At an unveiling ceremony Wednesday, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said Floyd "represents a lot more than himself at this juncture in history."
"All of the activity that took place around this country because of the untimely and vicious murder of George Floyd, and all the activism that sparked out of it, is worth us pausing and paying attention to," the mayor said.
Baraka said Floyd's death has the same impact as Emmett Till's in in 1995. "When [the statue] came to me, there was no contemplation, no trepidation. I said, 'Why not, let's have it here. Let's have it in Newark," he said, adding that he hopes the statue inspires people "to become active in the struggles that are happening right here in Newark and right here in New Jersey."
Newark is New Jersey's largest city and majority of the community is made up of people of color, with 50 percent of the population Black or African American.
Baraka said the statue was a gift by artist Stanley Watts to the city. The bronze statue shows Floyd sitting on a bench.
"The world needed a peaceful George," Watts said. "The world needed him relaxed and chilling on a bench and that's what we produced and we produced him larger than life, because after death, George will be remembered – and that's what memorials are – it's to remember and never forget why we changed today and tomorrow and for the rest of our existence on this planet."
"I believe that in my heart, and my art will speak for itself," he said as he teared up.
Actor and director Leon Pinkney said the night Floyd was killed, he was inspired to commission a statue "to honor his humanity." Pinkney said Floyd's death caused protests and had white people joining marches "like they never did before."
"The statue was to cause them to continue to remember why they marched during such a horrific pandemic. And I didn't want them to go back to the status quo," he said. Pinkney said when he called Watts, the artist knew he wanted a statue of George Floyd before he even had to ask.
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