All Black Lives Matter: Documenting Community Response to Racial Injustice
On May 25, 2020, White Minnesota Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin killed a Black man named George Floyd after kneeling on his neck for nearly 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The incident sparked a months-long wave of nationwide protests against police brutality and related injustices against Black Americans. Throughout the summer and into early autumn, many protestors across the world called attention to the need for solidarity across difference. Particularly, phrases like “All Black Lives Matter” ensured women victims, like Breonna Taylor and Oluwatoyin Salau, and LGBTQ+ victims, like Tony McDade, were not ignored in the demands for racial justice, liberation, and freedom to exist without discrimination or fear of violence.
Specifically in Gainesville, several community and University of Florida organizations led the charge on calls to address racism, gender violence, and police brutality. These organizations included the Gainesville chapter of the Dream Defenders, the UF chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the UF Black Effort (UFBE), the UF Black Student Union, the UF Black Graduate Student Organization, and other groups working alongside individual community activists. The posters, candle holders, photographs, and other ephemera displayed on this page specifically capture the Gainesville community’s response to calls for justice for Black, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized groups. Items and photographs were collected from June through October 2020 from memorial sites located at the corner of SW 13th St. & W. University Ave., and the 34th St. Wall. These sites, particularly the 34th St. Wall, changed frequently over the summer. At times, murals and graffiti tags affirming the lives of Black racial violence victims were crossed out or painted over. Nonetheless, community artists and Black Lives Matter activists returned to paint new slogans, murals, and other symbols, demonstrating the perseverance and commitment of the community to value and advocate for Black people’s humanity and equal rights.
In the months since the protests of summer 2020, Gainesville community members have pushed to move momentum forward not only in the surrounding area, but also at the University of Florida where various units across campus are working to address the university’s complicity in racial injustice. Reflecting on the protests of the summer, a Task Force was formed at the University of Florida to investigate and address systemic injustice.
The goal of the “All Black Lives Matter: Documenting Community Response to Racial Injustice” project encourages students, faculty, staff, alumni, independent researchers, and community members to reflect on this moment in the nation’s history, as well as the responsibility they have to dismantle racism and anti-Blackness in their sphere of influence.
University Archives has collected some of the posters, flower arrangements, and candleholders that were left at the 13th and University Avenue memorial site. In addition, digital photographs of the 13th and University Avenue site and the 34th Street Wall were taken by George A. Smathers Libraries staff and faculty and were added to the collection. The collection will be archived as a part of University Archives and is available for viewing. The digital photographs will be uploaded to UFDC in the future.
In January 2021, Special and Area Studies Collections intern, Tiffany Pennamon curated an display titled “All Black Lives Matter: Documenting Community Response to Racial Injustice,” which was displayed on the second floor of Library West. The display featured facsimiles of posters and photographs that were taken from the memorial sites over the summer of 2020. Community response to the display resulted in news coverage in the Independent Florida Alligator, as well as a video created by the UF Strategic Communications & Marketing department, which can be viewed below.