By Curtis Bunn
Shortly after George Zimmerman was acquitted in his trial in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in 2013, the anguish emanated from Ryan Wilson’s phone through text messages from friends.
He remembers the anger. The messages declaring “Nobody is coming to save us,” or wondering “Are they ever going to change or is it more important to focus our efforts inward?”
A student at Georgetown Law at the time, he thought about creating a “talking club,” in which Black people could discuss social issues and racial justice, conduct business or simply socialize. This pivotal moment set the stage for what eventually became The Gathering Spot, a private social club of 3,500 members in Atlanta, created with co-founder T.K. Petersen.
And it was there Tuesday, along with his staff gathered around a television, where Wilson watched the verdict in the trial of a person charged in the death of another Black man.
This time, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on three counts, including second-degree murder, of George Floyd.
But Wilson, 30, was less emotional about the jury’s decision on Chauvin than he was about Zimmerman’s acquittal. He went back to work.
“It was a powerful, sort of full circle moment for me to see a different outcome where I saw it,” he said. The verdict “was a moment of accountability. But still, another Black man is dead. I’m still saddened we have a broken police system. So, it’s hard to be elated about an outcome that should have been expected. Of course, I am glad the right verdict came down. But we’re supposed to react with gratitude, relief and joy? That’s not what we should be doing.”
Wilson’s sentiments were indicative of the various ways Black Americans reacted to the long-awaited verdict that many predicted would touch off a national uprising if Chauvin — who was recorded with his knee embedded in Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes — was not found guilty.