On Tuesday night at the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, holographic fireflies flew together to create a large visualization of George Floyd’s face alongside his name, superimposed on the monument to the Confederate general.
It was the first stop on the George Floyd Hologram Memorial Project’s weeklong tour through the South, an initiative launched by the George Floyd Foundation and the petition website Change.org.
Relatives of Floyd, whose May 25 killing in police custody in Minneapolis sparked social justice protests nationwide, created the foundation and were in Richmond for Tuesday’s event. Two of Floyd’s brothers, Philonise and Rodney Floyd, were among the speakers.
“My brother George Floyd ... he loves unity, he loves peace, he’d love what y’all are doing,” Rodney Floyd said to the Richmond crowd of about 500 people. “We love what y’all are doing.”
Organizers said they chose to start in Richmond because of the city’s history as the capital of the Confederacy. Recently there have been many petitions on Change.org asking for Confederate monuments to be removed, which led to the decision to host the hologram’s debut in a city with Confederate ties.
According to a news release, the hologram shows Floyd’s name depicted in graffiti to reflect “the thousands of mural memorials that have emerged to celebrate his life.”
“This project seeks to replace the monuments of racist Confederate memory with symbols of solidarity and justice,” Change.org senior campaigner Sylvia Rolle said in a news release.
Floyd’s family held a preview of the three-dimensional hologram Monday night at the Jefferson Davis memorial on Monument Avenue, where the statue of the former president of the Confederacy was toppled by protesters in June.
On Tuesday night, the hologram was shown on a large screen near the base of the Lee monument. Because it was designed to be seen from a specific angle, many of the people among the large crowd were unable to view the hologram properly, said CJ Davis, creative director of Quince Imaging, the Loudoun County-based company responsible for projecting the hologram.
“It’s fantastic that there are hundreds and hundreds of people ... out there supporting what this is all about,” Davis said Wednesday. “It’s still, relatively, a small screen for that size of a group.”
Change.org partnered with local activists to plan Tuesday’s event. Aaron Brown, an organizer who is a part of the Blacklight RVA activist network, helped lead that effort.
Brown said that bringing the George Floyd Hologram Memorial Project, as well as members of Floyd’s family, to Richmond was significant because “it will just help reinforce what we’re fighting for.”
Many in Richmond were inspired to take to the streets by the footage of Floyd’s death, Brown said, “but I think there’s a whole other level of validity that happens ... when you actually see the family, you actually see the loss, you actually see that this is real.”
Among the participants Tuesday night were Richmond-based slam poet Roscoe Burnems, the 2019 National Underground Poetry Individual Competition champion, and No BS! Brass Band.
After Richmond, the hologram project headed south with four more stops planned, on a route similar to the 1961 Freedom Rides. On Wednesday night, a presentation was set for Asheville, N.C., at a monument to Zebulon Baird Vance, who served as a Confederate soldier, North Carolina governor and U.S. senator.