George Floyd’s auntie shares her story


Joseph Eichele

On Sept. 28, 2022, the KEAP Center hosted George Floyd’s aunt, Angela Harrelson.

Lillianna Van De Walker, Features Reporter

Telling the story of the “unfortunate gift” of losing her nephew, Angela Harrelson, George Floyd’s aunt and closest relative, shared the importance of using your voice.

Winona State University’s KEAP Center welcomed Harrelson on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Tyler Treptow-Bowman, the intercultural and completion coordinator for the KEAP Center, commenced the event by thanking Harrelson for taking the time to come down to the university. Harrelson then expressed her appreciation for Winona State having her and began to share conversations about her memoir and her life experience being George Floyd’s “auntie.”

“I wanted people to know that [George Floyd] is more than just a hashtag, you know, to me, he’s family,” Harrelson said.

Harrelson shared that Floyd grew up in Texas and moved to Minnesota in 2017 to get treatment for some challenges that he was dealing with. She said that he was doing well until his mother passed away in 2018, which sent him into a spiral.

“I told people that he was gonna come back, you know, if Perry [George Floyd] fell off the wagon, he would come back. But this time, he didn’t come back,” Harrelson said, as she explained her faith that Floyd would recover from his grief but unfortunately, that was when he was killed.

After Floyd’s murder, Harrelson got calls from people informing her of what had happened. She thought that the people calling had to have had the wrong family. It was not until Harrelson’s sister called her and told her to turn on the TV that she realized the tragedy and that it was indeed her nephew, George Perry Floyd, who was killed.

After Harrelson had come to terms with what had really happened, she wondered how she could be a voice for him.

“If he could say ‘I can’t breathe’ 28 times … in a condition where he was handcuffed, laying on his stomach, he was in pain, in terror, thought he was dying, he felt helpless … then I could find a way to have a voice for him,” Harrelson said.

“People often asked me, how do I sum this up, and I would say two words; unfortunate gift,” Harrelson said. (Joseph Eichele)

Harrelson published her book, “Lift Your Voice”, in February of 2022. Harrelson explained that she decided to write a memoir because it gave her a chance to tell her experience with racism and explain why it is so important to use your voice.

“People often asked me, how do I sum this up, and I would say two words; unfortunate gift,” Harrelson said, explaining her view on Floyd’s death and how she used it as motivation for writing her memoir.

Harrelson described the unfortunate part to be the loss of her nephew, George Floyd. Furthermore, she described the gift to be that Floyd gave the world “the gift to use your voice.”

“So, to all of you, if you see something that is unfair and not right, doesn’t matter if it is about race, sexual orientation, religion, no matter what it is, use your voice to speak up,” Harrelson said.

After Harrelson told her story, she asked if anyone had any questions. One Winona State student asked Harrelson how she felt about people wanting to defund the police in response to George Floyd’s murder.

“People were just so angry…it was a premature thing, but it really meant something else …I think they wanted something now,” Harrelson said. “It is hard to reform something that is corrupt, you almost have to just start over.”

Harrelson said that she was happy and impressed with some of the new laws being made in Minneapolis. On the other hand, Harrelson also said she wanted to see a bigger fight for mental health.

Another Winona State student asked what Harrelson felt was the best way for white people to use their voices without speaking over black voices. Harrelson stressed the importance of being transparent. She explained that you should check your prejudice and if you are being genuine, then you should speak up.

“What you’re feeling, just say it, because you are being yourself. That’s the best approach that I can give you,” Harrelson said.

Harrelson retold experiences from her time growing up. She left with the message that all people, no matter the color of their skin, can use their voice and advocate for change. (Joseph Eichele)

When asked what Harrelson is doing to advance to the next level to help the state do better in response to racism, Harrelson explained the purpose of the George Floyd Global Memorial. She explained that it is a memorial of artwork created by people that were expressing their pain.

“It’s really sacred ground,” Harrelson said.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about Harrelson’s or Floyd’s story should visit for more information.