Floyd family and foundation witness establishment
By Hannah Richardson, Lifestyleeditor@natchitochestimes.com
“Our youth are our most precious possession.”
These are the words of legendary Grambling State University head football coach Eddie G. Robinson, and his 56 years of coaching at the university left a positive impact on both his players and the world of college football. On Thursday, Aug. 6, it was in front of his football display at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame that a scholarship in his name was introduced – the Eddie Robinson Teacher Education-Civility Scholarship.
The scholarship is also established in honor of George Perry Floyd Jr., whose death during an arrest in May was responded to by protests against police brutality across the globe. During the presentation at the museum, family members of George Floyd were in attendance and welcomed by Branch Director Jennae Biddiscombe and Hall of Fame, FLASH chairman Doug Ireland. In early June, North Central President Scott Hagan made a challenge to other university presidents to establish George Floyd memorial scholarships following his death.
Eddie Robinson III, grandson of coach Eddie Robinson and leader of the legacy fund in his name, answered this call to create a scholarship honoring Floyd. The Eddie Robinson Teacher Education-Civility Scholarship was made possible by the Eddie G. Robinson Legacy Fund, which has a primary focus to preserve the coach’s legacy by supporting young people with educational opportunities, and in association with the George Floyd Foundation. Floyd was to be scouted for Grambling athletics but had signed elsewhere.
Ralph Wilson, the scholarships and endowments coordinator for the Legacy Fund, spoke on the kindness of Robinson Sr. “The movement of the man made a world of a difference. Then and now, the legacy lives on,” said Wilson. This scholarship has a value of $10,000, split into $1,000 between 10 African American male students beginning through 2021-21 school year, and requires students to have a 2.7 GPA, 20 on the ACT (equal conversion for the SAT) and be committed to teaching for at least 10 years. Students majoring in teacher education from around the country will be welcome to apply. “The commitment has to come also,” said Wilson. “Those recipients every year, they will serve as true agents of change through civility.”
Wilson said they have hopes of building on the scholarship in the future. Eddie Robinson III gave welcoming remarks to the Floyd family and his condolences. “[George Floyd] has not only inspired a nation. He has inspired the entire world,” he said. “Mr. Wilson and I were impacted by it and with that said, we got on the phone with each other and said ‘How can we pay homage to George Floyd and continue to honor his legacy and align it with the Eddie Robinson Legacy Fund? and my grandfather’s legacy?’ It’s fitting that George Floyd was a student athlete and my grandfather taught and coaches quite a few. In particular, Floyd’s high school, Jack Yates High School, my grandfather pandered recruits through the years until her retired. I’m sure George Floyd was not only impacted by his teachers, but as well by his coaches. This partnership with the George Floyd Foundation is a match made in heaven. I look forward to continued initiatives between the Eddie Robinson Legacy Fund and the George Floyd Foundation.”
Floyd’s youngest brother, Rodney Floyd, shared a few words on behalf of his family and the foundation. He thanked Wilson for reaching out to them to make this scholarship possible and Robinson for the Legacy Fund. “It’s a beautiful thing and I love that the scholarship is going towards getting more Black educators. We love that as a family,” he said. “My late brother’s death… we’re all still mourning and you’re all still mourning with us; that brings a smile under this mask, and tears as well. Thank you for carrying his legacy and as a family, God’s given us the strength to keep on going and carry his name and letting us know it’s not in vain. On a day like this, we know it’s not in vain because we got our first scholarship.”
According to spokesperson for the George Floyd Foundation Tezlyn Figaro, this scholarship is the first official initiative since the conception of the foundation. “This will be their first scholarship of many.” Figaro said the foundation has three areas of focus: social justice and education, youth services and workforce development. “We believe this scholarship hits all three. It allows opportunity for those to be educated particularly in the social justice area by carrying the name of George Floyd. It’s really important that this family set up a foundation to provide mentorship, scholarship opportunities and this is the first to be created of many in the future. What happens when someone gets their education? They’re going to be able to have a job. As we look at statistics, where those who are graduating from high school and college still are unemployed, still are underemployed and still not paid what they should be. The marriage between the Eddie Robinson Legacy Fund and the George Floyd Foundation was a marriage really built upon the importance of education and giving people opportunities. Obviously, George Floyd’s love for the game was important and the love the foundation has continues to move the ball, not just physically on the football field, but creating opportunities outside the field. We decided to meet halfway.” Figaro asks that if other colleges plan to continue this initiative though scholarships to please contact the foundation, as Wilson had done, so they could have a partnership.
“If there is no partnership, there is nothing,” she said. “We’ve seen all over the globe people just taking George Floyd’s name and doing what they want, which is fine, but it was important to have this family’s voice involved in this process.
“Knowing [George] was such a big sports fan, of football and of Robinson’s and Grambling,… I can see him now in his physical form just with the biggest smile for this moment and the scholarship,” said Rodney.