Ambassador Sullivan’s Prepared Remarks: Memorial Service for George Floyd

Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan

Remarks Prepared for Delivery at Memorial Service for George Floyd

DuBois Center, Accra, Ghana

June 5, 2020


Honorable Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Barbara Oteng-Gyasi;

Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Tourism Authority Kwesi Agyeman;

Director of the Office of Diaspora Affairs at the Office of the President, Akwasi Awua Ababio;

Your Excellency, Ambassador of the African Union Diaspora African Forum, Dr. Erieka Bennett;

Fellow mourners:

Good morning.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in today’s memorial ceremony for the late George Floyd, here on the sacred grounds of the W.E.B. DuBois Center in Accra. Many of us watched the moving memorial services in the United States, and it is comforting to have a ceremony here as well.

We appreciate the statement delivered to the Embassy on behalf of the Universal Pan African Diaspora Coalition of Ghana on Monday, June 1, and have faithfully communicated the message to Washington, D.C.

I take particular note of the Coalition’s expression of solidarity and its “sharing of every dimension of the pain, trauma, despair and promise of this moment.”

The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, has filled with grief the hearts of Americans, Ghanaians, and people around the world.  On behalf of the United States Embassy in Accra, I join in expressing our outrage as well as our condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family and friends.

One former police officer has been charged with second-degree murder, and three former police officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The cases are under investigation by state and federal authorities.  And Attorney General Bill Barr has announced a federal civil rights investigation into George Floyd’s death.

No one is above the law.

We have seen the difficult images across our country triggered by the horrifying events in Minnesota.  This incident is prompting important and necessary conversations in the United States, and serves as a reminder of the importance of confronting painful truths head on, and of addressing the underlying conditions and existing systems that perpetuate racial injustice as we, as Americans, strive to form a more perfect union.

And although our laws provide protections against racial discrimination, discrimination and the legacy of slavery are an unfortunate part of the United States’ history and an all-too-present reality for many Americans.  The U.S. Constitution expressly protects the right of peaceable assembly and to petition for a redress of grievances.  Throughout American history, our people have gathered peacefully to protest injustice and to demand accountability from our leaders and to effect change.  All individuals are entitled by U.S. law to gather peacefully to express their outrage over police misconduct, to call for change, and to demand accountability.

Though these challenges are difficult to address, the United States and free and open societies around the world are strengthened through the debates produced by our citizens exercising their right to free speech. And they are held accountable through freedom of the press and rule of law.  Governments that take human rights seriously are transparent and welcome conversations, however painful they may be, about addressing concerns and making improvements.

I am heartened by the perspective of civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, who was right here with us at the Dubois Center, last July.  And this gets to the “promise of this moment” articulated in the petition of the Universal Pan African Diaspora Coalition of Ghana.

Speaking yesterday on national television, Representative Lewis said the widespread outpouring since Mr. Floyd’s death “feels and looks so different” than in the past. “It is so much more massive and all inclusive. To see people from all over the world taking to the streets, to the roadways, to stand up, to speak up, to speak out.”

“Because of the action of young and old, black, white, Latino, Asian American and Native American, because people cried and prayed, people would never, ever forget what happened and how it happened.”

“It is my hope that we are on our way to greater change. To respect the dignity and worth of every human being, and it doesn’t matter the color, or their background, or whether they’re male or female, gay or straight,” he concluded. “We are one people. We’re one family. We all live in the same house, not just the American house, but the world house.”

You cannot stop the call of history,” Lewis added. “There cannot be any turning back. We have come too far and made too much progress to stop now and go back.”

Indeed, we can, and we must, do better in living up to the ideals of our national motto, inscribed on the Great Seal of the United States, E pluribus unum, Out of many, one.

May George Floyd rest in peace and may his horrific killing help the United States on our path towards a more perfect union.

With deep respect, I thank you for including me in today’s ceremony.