Commentary: Memories of King’s and Floyd’s deaths still haunt us

Commentary: Memories of King’s and Floyd’s deaths still haunt us
June 02
10:34 2021

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

There are some events we want to remember and other events we would rather soon forget. Happiness and sadness are feelings that you get because of them.

Events like birthdays, graduations and weddings you will remember with great fondness.

Deaths, funerals and killings have pain and hurt associated with them.

These times, both good and bad, will be etched in our minds forever.

We can recall time, date and place as to where we were when some life changing event took place.

I can remember April 4, 1968, like it was yesterday. I was in my residence hall room when I heard that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed. Johnson C. Smith University, an HBCU in Charlotte, where I was enrolled, closed the campus. 

America was in shock and mourning.

While we have a national holiday in his honor, I am still saddened and sick by the events that took place.

Earlier this year, we travelled to Memphis, Tenn., and saw the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated. Seeing it was overwhelming emotionally. The aftermath of that killing made America change. However, it took Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dying to do it.

Is that the way it is? That death must be the signal for change in this country? Does some type of moral bell go off in us?

Sometimes, it seems that lessons are learned slowly with us. Our initial reaction is to shed tears of sorrow, lament and vow to do better. And yes, there are momentary periods of respect and tolerance. We have these temporary respites that allow us to be inclusive and of one accord.

Yet, tragically, our land is ripe with ill will.

Since Dr. King’s murder, there have been countless acts of violence in our homeland. Each has meant a loss of life and of a family member. None can be minimized. All will be remembered with reverence. 

Now we have reached the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis Minnesota. His senseless murder took place on May 25, 2020, at the hands of police officer George Chauvin.

Like you, I can remember where I was during this hateful act. This scene of unconscionable meanness was unbelievable. How could one man exact that kind of pain on another human being?

Chauvin put his knee on his neck and just choked the life out of him. Brutality beyond definition!

Last week, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with the family of George Floyd.  While we do not know, I am sure that compassion and empathy were the common themes.

The death of George Floyd made America a dark place. Our light of hope had suddenly dimmed. However, our trust in the strength of America must remain. It must be steadfast and not fade or falter. We know the enemy is busy plotting to dismantle and to destroy what is good about this country.

I will never forget April 4,1968, and May 25, 2020. However, I cannot give up. Giving up will never become an option.

As we think about these two men, their deaths and the deaths of others cannot be in vain. They cannot be wasted. 

We must continue to march and speak out against oppression. Our lives are interwoven with their lives.

Reforms in traditional and long-standing systems must take place. Time and again, we see the same results from the same systems.

Courage and conviction are needed so that evil does not become the standard-bearer. Dr. King and Mr. Floyd witnessed injustice first hand.

Justice in America must not only be from ocean to ocean, but must also be from neighborhood to neighborhood.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator. He can be reached at

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