9,000 digital art NFTs are being released to raise funds in George Floyd's memory
Nearly two years after George Floyd's murder under the knee of a police officer, his brother Terrence Floyd is still fighting for justice and police reform.
"[Police reform] is changing, but it's not changing at a rapid pace," says Terrence. "But it's changing. Nothing in the physical form will change until you change your mindset."
And in the fight to get justice for his brother's murder, Terrence has turned to the unlikeliest corners to do just that: NFTs — or non-fungible tokens. An NFT is a piece of code that renders itself as art and that has a unique "bar code," or token, on the blockchain, a decentralized record-keeping system with a shared public record. Owning an NFT is a bit like owning the original of a collectible such as a baseball card.
Terrence Floyd, founder of the nonprofit We Are Floyd — an organization creating initiatives to help communities deal with mental health issues, poverty and social injustice — is working with Confront Art to release 9,000 NFTs on mintNFT.com in a kickoff event on April 28.
In addition, the charity campaign will partner with the families of the late Rep. John Lewis, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, along with participation from Grammy Award-winning singer and former TV host Dionne Warwick.
"I certainly support this project," says Warwick. "There are many people I know that this will benefit. And it will be something that's an approachable way for people to get involved."
Its goal is to inspire others to co-create artwork
As the campaign gears up for its launch, organizers say they're aiming to celebrate and support diverse emerging NFT artists and their work while also helping the charities.
"We are constantly looking for innovative ways to support artists and charities," said Confront Art co-founders Andrew Cohen and Lindsay Eshelman in a news release. "We are excited to bring together entertainment legends and emerging artists alike for a major movement for social justice and charity in the metaverse."
"I hope that this message will reach enough people to have them participate in this — and that is vitally important," Warwick says of the NFT charity campaign. "We must raise these funds."
According to the organizers, the NFT campaign is an extension of Confront Art's "SEEINJUSTICE" series, which debuted sculptures of Lewis, Taylor and Floyd by artist Chris Carnabuci.
The sculptures were installed in New York City's Union Square last year in the wake of the country's racial unrest in the summer of 2020.
"My brother's death was a catalyst for change," Terrence Floyd said in a news release. "[However], we cannot let that change and that momentum slow."
A racial divide in the country
With the U.S. approaching the two-year anniversary of Floyd's murder, his brother said in the news release that there's still tension and division among Americans when it comes to racial injustice:
There is still a huge divide in this country. ... If we can start on a community level, creating educational opportunities and safe spaces for the youth to gather and learn, then we can create change and hope where there once was a void."
In February, a federal jury found three former Minneapolis police officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, guilty of violating Floyd's civil rights.
The three each faced federal civil rights charges over their conduct on May 25, 2020, when they joined Derek Chauvin in holding 46-year-old Floyd to the ground for about nine minutes as they kept bystanders away.
All three were charged with willfully and without due process depriving Floyd of his right to liberty. The statutory maximum sentence for violating Floyd's civil rights resulting in his death is life in prison.
A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
Since Floyd's murder, a series of high-profile judicial decisions have been made in other police brutality cases involving Black people.
In mid-February, Kim Potter, the former police officer convicted of manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright, was sentenced to two years in state custody, with 16 months to be served in prison and the rest on supervised release.
And in March, former Louisville, Ky., police officer Brett Hankinson, who was involved in the deadly raid on 26-year-old Breonna Taylor's apartment, was found not guilty. Hankinson was the only officer involved in the raid to face charges.
As the country continues to tackle the issue of racial equity, Warwick emphasizes that individuals need to be on the same page in order to fight injustice.
"Conversations, I think, are truly the key," says Warwick. "Getting [people] to be able to understand, first of all, each other, is important."
NFTs are a gift that will last over time
Hype surrounding cryptocurrency and NFTs is on the rise. From drawings to photos and even music, much of the hype is simply about the concept of using tech to sell art digitally.
"Remember those days [when] people would line up for the newest Nike Air Jordan sneakers at the physical store? This is the new digital equivalent," Katie Haun, a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, told NPR last year.
"It's everything that brings together culture, and it's also a bet on the future of e-commerce," Haun added.
But when it comes to NFTs, some are on the fence regarding the safety, viability and ethics of cryptocurrency.
"For people who participate in the NFT space as purchasers (and even issuers), there needs to be a fairly healthy dose of diligence," says Tim Nielsen, an attorney and the founder of Cloutchain, a fan engagement and social platform.
Nielsen says though there's some skepticism surrounding NFTs and cryptocurrency when it comes to philanthropy, the benefits outweigh the risks.
"One interesting thing about blockchain technology is that the transactions are all publicly traceable," he says. "These are risks that have some counterbalances and positives."
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.