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A roundtable discussion: Mental health and trauma, 1 year after George Floyd's death

6 Black men share how they processed Floyd's death
Posted at 8:44 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 16:29:19-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — May 25, 2020.

When first hearing that date, people might not think much about it. But many around the world will never forget the name George Floyd.

That was the day he was killed, sparking protests, immense grief, anger and calls for change. But some saw more than Floyd – some saw themselves. In this exclusive round table discussion, 41 Action News brought together six Black men, including Anchor Kevin Holmes, to talk about that day, their own mental health and how to move forward.

Participants in this discussion included Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell; Niwa Babayemi a doctoral candidate of counseling psychology; Pastor Armour Stephenson III, City of Truth Church in KCMO; Retired Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department Officer Steve Williams; and former NBA Player and Head Coach Earl Watson.

The conversation ended perhaps how it should’ve started – every head bowed, every eye closed in prayer, led by Stephenson.

“Lord, we just thank you for this opportunity. We thank you for all these brothers and sisters who are here. We’re just sharing our hearts and our perspectives and ultimately our lives. And we thank you for our stories. Each and every person in here has a story.”

Some of those stories are intertwined, like Watson and Williams. Watson, a former professional athlete and coach, grew up in KCK, where Williams patrolled his neighborhood.

“For me growing up, I wasn’t afraid of him (Officer Williams)," Watson said. “I was afraid of him telling my mama. Take me to jail, don’t tell my mama.”

Everyone heard Floyd call for his mama, moments before his final breath.

So, this group of community leaders gathered at the one place where no discussion is off limits – the barbershop. We talked about that moment in time, cemented in each of our brains; how we process it; the trauma associated with it and how we heal individually, and as a community.

Anchor Kevin Holmes: Walk me through that day, one year ago, when you heard about what happened. When you saw the video and what went on in your mind?

Dr. Mark Bedell, KCPS Superintendent: We’ve seen that pattern play out time and time again. And I think as a leader of a system where kids are seeing this and they’re having to go back and ask, why does this continue to happen? And we took that approach that in our school district. We will no longer condone those kinds of practices and stand silent.

Pastor Armour Stephenson III, City of Truth Church: I think for me, when that took place, I immediately got an onslaught of ‘Pastor, what’s going on? Why does this keep happening?

KH: How do you (pastor) answer those questions?

Stephenson III: I’m letting people know that God has not ignored that. But God has already dealt with that. And our responsibility is to put faith and trust in that, knowing that all things will be made right in the end.

Earl Watson, Ret. NBA Player: I needed that, pastor, because for me, I was froze.