'This circle is about healing’: Gardener sees himself as caretaker of the energy at George Floyd’s Square
This is part of a monthlong series looking at how the community has transformed the site of George Floyd’s killing — 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis — and at the people behind its transformation. It is the culmination of reporting over several months, and a partnership with South High School to engage neighborhood youth in telling their community’s story.
This summer, you could have found Jay Webb at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, the intersection in south Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed by police. He tended to the garden around the “Black Power” fist sculpture, which he built the structure for.
As visitors came to the memorial to honor and mourn Floyd, he also spent time providing aromatherapy, using essential oils like lavender and patchouli to relieve anxiety and improve the overall sense of wellbeing.
“So that when people came here to mourn George Floyd, they left with a healing,” said Webb, who works as a general contractor in the Twin Cities. “Because what we wanted to do was to send a message to the whole galaxy of healing. This circle is about healing.”
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He sees himself as a caretaker of the energy in space. Now dubbed George Floyd’s Square, community members and activists have turned the area into an autonomous zone as they press the city to meet their demands.
Webb thinks this place has had a positive impact on more than just this corner of the city. He said it's become a place of community action and healing, which is having a ripple effect on the world with demonstrations and safe spaces popping up everywhere you can think of.
“We created our space and our vibration here for Minneapolis. Now what happened after they saw how we responded. What did other cities do?” he said. “They started giving as well. They responded the same way.”
The reason people keep coming to visit the square is no longer in light of what's happened in the space on a physical level, Webb said. Instead, he said they come to find peace and find healing.
As he gives a tour of the square, Webb points out a community garden with plants and vegetables. He said it represents growth, strength and everyone coming together.
As the garden ends, a list of names of people lost to police brutality begins. The names include Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Ahmad Arbury, Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland. They’re painted across Chicago Avenue and serve as a constant reminder and a wake-up call.
As a Black man, Webb heavily identifies himself with the names on this list. He compares the current protests and calls for racial equity to living in the civil rights and suffrage movements of the past.
“Because before it was about voting, right? Suffrage, you know,” Webb said. “Now it’s about the human right. The human right is to love.”
Laurel Bandy and William Domeier are students at South High School in Minneapolis. Their class, "voices" teaches the fundamentals of journalism and worked with MPR News on a project about George Floyd’s Square.