CHICAGO (CBS) — There was a moment that caught our attention Tuesday following
the conviction of fired Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, said Emmett Till – the Black teenager from Chicago who was beaten and lynched in Mississippi in 1955 – was “the first George Floyd.” Till’s family never got justice.
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On Tuesday, CBS 2’s Jermont Terry spoke with the family of Emmett Till, and what the verdict means to them.
The Rev. Wheeler Parker is Emmett Till’s cousin. He told Terry that when he first heard about a jury finding Chauvin guilty on all counts in Floyd’s death, his reaction was “unbelief.”
To understand the Rev. Parker’s disbelief in the Chauvin verdict, you must first know Parker’s history. He showed us a picture of himself with his cousin, Emmett Till in Summit, Illinois.
“If you see a picture of him anywhere when he was young, he smiled all the time,” Parker said.
Parker went down south to Mississippi with Till that summer in 1955. He was in the house when Till was taken by white men at gunpoint and later beaten and lynched.
“They came to first in this room,” Parker said. “and I was shaking like a leaf on a tree.”
The Chicago teen’s murder sparked outrage after his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted on an open casket.
Terry: “How important was in that decision by your aunt to make sure that this casket was open for the world?”
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Parker: “I think it was as important as the scene we saw with Floyd with that knee on the neck. They spoke volumes.”
Parker said when he first heard and saw what happened to Floyd, one thing came to mind.
“Immediately, immediately – I lived this,” he said. “This was my life.”
He understands the pain of Floyd’s family – and even though the men accused of lynching Till had a trial, no one was convicted. Parker feared the same would happen in Floyd’s case.
But the verdict Tuesday gave some comfort. Terry let Parker hear the words from Floyd’s brother which offered the best solace.
“To me, he was the first George Floyd – that was Emmett Till,” Philonise Floyd said. “He was the first George Floyd. Today, you have the cameras around the world.”
Parker added: “The spirit is still alive in America, but to see people stand up, as Emmett Till’s mother said, people stood up that never stood up before and spoke out. I resonate and I agree with that.
Parker said the diverse group of people who spoke up after Floyd’s death 65 years later is helping bring about the change.
“At every turn where Blacks make significant gains and changes, there was always some diversity that stood up with the fire in their belly and stood up for what’s right,” Parker said.
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Parker knows that his cousin, Emmett Till, was not the first person to die of a lynching in the segregated and racist South. He also said despite the verdict Tuesday, he does not believe Floyd will be the last person to die in such a fashion at the hands of police. But he said if it happens again, we as a diverse country must speak out when we know things are wrong.