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Oakland County residents share what it’s like to be black in America

  • By Monica Drake; @monica_adele on Twitter
  • Jun 2, 2020
Harris family
Paris Harris of Waterford with her husband, Marvin Harris, and their four children

In George Floyd’s last moments of life, he called out for his mother.

Watching that video of Floyd as a police officer knelt on his neck until he lost consciousness, mothers of black sons have said they imagined their own sons, begging for life while struggling for air.

Paris Harris, a Waterford resident and mother of four, said, “It could have been any of us that day. It could be my uncle, my cousin, my baby laying there. … I’m hurt about this. We’re all hurting.”- Advertisement –

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For black people across Michigan and the nation, Floyd’s death has only perpetuated the fear they’ve lived with their entire lives.

“As a mother, you are ingrained with fear. Fear of them falling and hurting themselves, fear of them getting bullied, or fear of them getting sick. But as the mother of a black child, especially one of a son, your fear is unmeasurable,” said Harris.

“It goes beyond skinned knees and runny noses. You fear them being at the wrong place at the wrong time. You fear them spending the rest of their lives in jail for a crime they didn’t commit – if they even make it there before being gunned down senselessly as soon as they’re approached.”

Marcell Jackson
Marcell Jackson

Marcell Jackson of Waterford said, for him, one of the hardest things has been seeing insensitive social media posts in response to Floyd’s death.

“(These are) people I have known for years – some I looked at like brothers and sisters. … (Now I see) how these people truly feel,” he said. “(Them) minimizing it and not truly seeing what is going on hurts.”

Avenn Benton
Avenn Benton

Avenn Benton of Pontiac said she realized people were treating her differently because of the color of her skin when she was in high school and Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old from Florida, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. She attended a predominantly white school and said most of her classmates wouldn’t even talk to her about it.

“I turned to media to find ways to express my thoughts. Personally, Tamir Rice is the one that broke my heart. I couldn’t believe that someone could get away with killing a 12-year-old boy. Then, Philando Castile was killed in front of his girlfriend and his daughter,” said Benton. “I was raised by a single father so that one hit me different. I still have a picture of Philando in my room.”

Benton said she thinks some people have grown numb to the news – but, every time she hears of another victim of senseless violence, it’s not just another name in the media to her. Benton feels each one of those deaths – mourning and grieving along with their families.

“How does (Floyd’s) death affect me? Well I can’t say it’s just his death. It’s all the names I have in my head. It’s all the stories of these people doing mundane things and being killed for them,” she said.

Each time her boyfriend or father goes out at night, Benton said she can’t sleep until she knows they’re home safely.

“Even during a pandemic, we aren’t safe. We aren’t safe in our homes, at the park, at the gas station, in the car,” she said.

To share your story about how George Floyd’s death has affected you, email reporter Monica Drake at


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