HOUSTON – In the middle of Emancipation Park in Houston’s Third Ward stands a memorial honoring and commemorating 230 African Americans who died from racial injustices in America.
The memorial took place, in part, due to the efforts and help of Houston rapper and philanthropist Trae Tha Truth, a partner in bringing it to the city.
The traveling memorial began on Juneteenth this year in Portland, Oregon. It was in Houston from Sept. 29 to Oct. 13.
Visiting the Say Their Names Memorial was free to the public.
The memorial features many familiar names, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Laquan McDonald and Michael Brown along with many local names. There are floral arrangements and signs commemorating who each person was and what they stood for.
So far, versions of the memorial have been on display in more than 25 cities around the country sharing the stories of African Americans whose lives were cut short due to racial injustice.
“This isn’t just one moment. It is a movement,” said Brandon Mack, an organizer for Black Lives Matter Houston. “This memorial has uplifted people who are often forgotten. This is about the continuous realization and awareness of racism in this country.”
On the Say Their Names Memorial website you can find biographies of people included in the memorial and other African Americans who have died because of racism in America.
Amidst social unrest in the United States, this memorial serves every community in hopes of bringing racial injustice forward and helping people realize the atrocities that are occurring because of race, gender or background.
“Racism is something that has been systemic and normalized in this country. Police brutality is not okay,” said Chambie Elliot, a high school sophomore from Klein, Texas.
“This is not normal,” Elliot said. “It’s the inhumane and cruel situations that really evoke in us the need to take action and vote for leaders with compassion and common sense to make a difference.”
Especially since Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police in May, civil unrest has continued throughout the country. The movement is sparking change on both local and national levels with demands for more police training, bans on chokeholds and other reforms.
The memorial aims to symbolize a diverse America, and the role of African-Americans in our country.
“This Memorial represents the entire diaspora of the Black community. Memorials are making a statement in honoring those who passed on and bringing attention to the problem, but we all have a role to play in creating long-term, sustainable change,” Mack said.
This memorial is a powerful visual message for all Americans to see and understand the hardships facing the African American community today.
Hopefully the memorial will spur discussion, arouse action and help people stay woke about racism in our country.
Katrina Machetta is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.