Selwyn Jones Breaks Down Racial Barriers with Levity and Passion for Justice
Selwyn Jones believes - as tragic as it was - that his nephew, George Floyd, died for a reason.
Because of that belief, he's taken on the mantle of civil rights activist. He's going to talk to anyone and everyone, using his gift of humor, storytelling, and passion for justice, "so nobody will ever have to go through that again and see somebody they love die like that for any reason, let alone because of the color of their skin," he says.
But Jones knows that his new-found fame and being a messenger of change isn't always going to be easy. "I have been called every name under the sun," he says. "I had to watch one of my favorite people get killed in the street like a dog. But after we buried him, now I'm the dog. Now I'm the bad guy."
Jones spent most of the COVID lock-down renovating a 20-room motel, by himself, in the bitter-cold Gettysburg, South Dakota winter. "All winter long, I was the hardest working person in the world," he says.
He got no help from the neighbors that he believed were his friends because he had recently demanded that the local police department remove its insignia, which included the Confederate flag. At a city council meeting, a neighbor of more than 20 years, who lives three doors down from Jones, stood up in front of the council and said, "we ain't gonna change nothing in our town because the dead nigger's uncle lives here."
"He's been over to my house," Jones says. "He had my six-thousand-dollar lawn-mower at the time. I went to over get my lawn-mower and he looked at me...but had nothing to say to me. People show you how they feel about you by how they treat you. When it comes down to a person of color disputing, debating, or challenging their thoughts, the ugliness will come out."
Jones takes it in stride, however, and believes it is laughter that has helped him and his family get by in life. He learned this at a very young age, while growing up poor in the South. "We liked to have fun and laugh, and joke, 'cause when you grow up poor, laughing is free," he says. "If I can make somebody laugh, it just ain't that bad," he says.
Jones has a LOT more to say on a special May 25th edition (the 1st anniversary of George Floyd's death) of Out of Whack.