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2021 Excellence in Social Justice Reporting, Single Story finalist

Flimsy Plastic Knives, a Single Microwave and Empty Popcorn Bags

How 50 Inmates Inside a Michigan Prison Prepared a Feast to Celebrate the Life of George Floyd

About the Project

As global protests broke out in response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, news outlets chronicled the nation’s grief, anger, and frustration. In August 2020, The Counter contributor Tana Ganeva reported on an overlooked act of homage: A special meal held in Floyd’s honor inside a Michigan prison. While the menu itself was austere—fried rice on bagels, paired with a can of vending machine soda, for 50 men—the preparations were anything but simple. Ganeva recounted how the organizers had only basic tools at their disposal: plastic forks, empty popcorn bags, and a microwave. Yet despite the deprivation of prison life, they found a way to express their humanity and unite against the circumstances that led to Floyd’s killing—some of the same systemic forces that landed many of them in prison in the first place. The story was enhanced by visuals that helped to recreate the meal and dramatize its power. Illustrator Jaye Elizabeth Elijah’s original artwork, a series of handmade drawings with collage elements, set the tone of the piece, depicting central characters and key moments from the story—including a portrait of the inmates sharing 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence in their respective cells before eating. The piece also included scans of primary documents, including written reflections from the participants. As one of the organizers told The Counter: “It made them feel human again.”