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In Memory Of George Floyd

Published: June 8, 2020

       Undoubtedly the images that have flashed across our television screens over the past several weeks have been more than disturbing as we watched on live television the murder of George Floyd by brazen, uniformed police officers in full daylight. How can this be happening in America? And yet Black/Brown people have been asking for hundreds of years, how can we stop this from happening in America? We’ve all heard the outcry following each senseless, brutal killing of Black Men and Boys (and yes, even women) at the hands of overly aggressive, police and vigilantes who, as their defense, insist their victims were resisting arrest or somehow looked suspicious and threatening in their Blackness. Our communities have waited patiently for the justice system to provide justice in these cases and each time we have been sorely disappointed in the outcome. And so, it has continued unabated until now, when a brave, seventeen-year old girl’s video taping of the killing of George Floyd cannot be ignored. America must now face, front and center, its demons of historical racism in this country. Will this time be different? We fervently pray that it will, but recognize all too well that prayers alone will not move us forward?       

       We are, however, heartened by some of the other images that have found their way to our screens these past few weeks such as, the wide diversity in race/ethnicity, gender, and age of the peaceful demonstrators that have turned out in huge numbers around the world to protest this latest incident of police torture by four officers who have forgotten their humanity. This represents a significant ground swell of people who can no longer be silent about the disparities evident in the criminal justice system. We also witnessed touching moments when high ranking police officers, public officials and officers on the ground have taken a knee to pray in solidarity with demonstrators. Also caught on cameras were glimmers of positive interactions between military reinforcements and protestors, a shared fist pump, a smile or a heartfelt eye to eye between a soldier and a young woman at the front of an iron barrier to please go home more out of concern for her safety than to quell her message of protest. There comes a time when the people of a city and its guardians of safety are in accord with what is known to be wrong. It is at these moments when we have the opportunity to hear each other and move to make changes. A time when our country can undertake its long overdue reckoning with its past so that we may go forward as a more united union.

       Ironically, this month is Men’s Health Month, a time set aside each year to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This month gives health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury. Well, George Floyd’s death has certainly heightened our awareness of the chronic disease of racism so much like a cancer that has metastasized and killed far too many Black men and Boys in this country. It has proven to be even more deadly than Covid 19 which coincidently, Mr. Floyd survived, but not so surprisingly had contracted. For preliminary studies of the novel Corona virus indicate that men are more likely to contract the virus and are far more likely to perish from it. Further, data has also shown that Black and Brown people, particularly men, have contracted and died from the virus at alarmingly higher rates than any other group. This begs the question why? Of course, not enough research has been done yet to say definitively why this is the case as it relates to Covid 19, but we can certainly draw from what we already do know about Black/Brown men’s health which include:

• Pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer that leave their already compromised immune system’s vulnerable;

• Disparities in access to quality health care;

• Lack of affordable health insurance to cover annual check-ups and preventative health assessment testing;

• Insufficient green spaces, low-cost indoor gyms and physical exercise facilities;

• Inadequate access to quality fresh fruits and vegetables with an overabundance of fast food restaurants that carry high fat, sugar laden food choices;

• A “macho-driven” willingness to participate in more risky behavior, such as not wearing a mask during this pandemic and putting off seeking medical care at the first signs of ill health;

• The stressors of racism which research has shown puts the body in a constant state of “fight or flight” level of readiness. This in turn causes the nervous system to go into overdrive pumping excessive amounts of adrenaline that increases the heart rate and blood pressure. This constant state of readiness can and does overtime cause inflammation and the deterioration of vital organs.

       There are many ways in which to address many of these factors that will be amplified during Men’s Health Week on June 15-21. Barring any limitations that may be imposed by the ongoing pandemic, there will be a number of free workshops and forums that will promote men’s good health as well as opportunities for free testing to establish your important baseline health numbers. We recommend listening out for local community public service announcements for what may be available in your area. For more information on minority health Click here.

              Yes, George Floyd’s demise has pointed up the ways in which racism plays out for Black Men and Boys’ health. We are pleased to hear that new policies are already being proposed as is the case in Somerville, Massachusetts where the mayor of that city has officially declared systemic racism a public safety and health emergency with a ten-point plan for addressing it.

             Here at J.F. Goode Funeral Home we are all too familiar with the toll that disparities in health outcomes have taken on our community. We are saddened by the events of the past few weeks, not to mention the last few months that have robbed our community of far too many souls. We encourage all men to take their health more seriously. After all it is the only life that you have and our mothers, wives, partners, siblings and children are depending on your ongoing presence in their lives. In memory of our fallen brother George Floyd, let’s not let his death be in vain, for he has lifted up the consciousness of America like never before. Black Lives do Matter and it begins with our men’s self-care!


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