"Right now is the time to do work," says author and activist Bakari Sellers after Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd

By Elaine Aradillas and Wendy Grossman Kantor
April 21, 2021 12:59 PM
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George Floyd

After Minnesota jurors convicted Derek Chauvin of murder Tuesday afternoon, the news was met with jubilation and relief. But advocates for racial justice stress that the verdict was only the first step to achieve justice for George Floyd.

"Right now is the time to do work. I don't think anyone wants to relax," says Bakari Sellers, an activist and the author of My Vanishing Country, a memoir about growing up Black in the South. "Right now is the time to pass the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act," a federal law aimed at curbing police abuse.

Adds Sellers, "We've got to get criminal justice reform done. If we don't, then all of this is in vain."

Sellers says the verdict was not tantamount to justice, though it provided a measure of accountability for Floyd's murder.

Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Derek Chauvin's conviction.

"You're not excited by any stretch because I think many people of color, particularly Black folks in this country, recognize the burden. You also recognize this isn't justice because justice is George being alive," he tells PEOPLE. "At least they got it right. This is accountability that we always haven't had."

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Alicia Smith, a 38-year-old Minneapolis activist who has been to almost every peaceful protest since Floyd's death a year ago, cheered with other supporters outside the courthouse when the verdict was announced. But she says she's not ready to celebrate.

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Credit: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

"How do we continue to fight? It isn't over. This is just one verdict," Smith says. "We're not done. I don't want to celebrate until the end. Now I'm asking myself, 'Where is the end? Where does it end?'"

RELATED VIDEO: Derek Chauvin Convicted of All Charges in Murder of George Floyd

Still, she says, the celebrations outside the courthouse were understandable.

"People are in a place of jubilee," she says. "People took a deep breath today for the first time in nearly a year. Today was a day where people took a collective, deep breath."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.