A “George Perry Floyd Square” commemorative street sign unveiled at 38th and Chicago. Credit: Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune

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Billy Jones is hopeful that $500,000 in grants from George Floyd’s family will support the businesses at 38th and Chicago, an area struggling to recover since Minneapolis police officers killed Floyd there in May 2020.

He opened Onyx Coffeehouse there in April “to connect community members in all walks of life, people who typically probably wouldn’t cross each other’s paths.” But Jones has heard about many people staying away from the intersection known as George Floyd Square—whether out of fear or respect.

“I’m definitely applying,” he said. And even if the grant money goes toward surrounding organizations, he added, “a win for my neighbor is a win for me.”

Floyd’s relatives, community leaders, and civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Jeff Storms announced this week the opening of the grant application process for the Ward 8 Community Benevolence Fund to support Black-and minority-owned businesses and organizations in the neighborhood where Floyd was murdered.

Floyd’s family donated $500,000 to the fund—from its $27 million civil settlement with the city of Minneapolis—to uplift the local people and institutions harmed by systemic racism. The fund is now accepting applications for grants that, among other purposes, would support the renovation or expansion of businesses, training initiatives, and programs for arts and civil rights awareness.

“What we hope to accomplish first and foremost is to get funds in the hands of those businesses in the Ward 8 community near where George was murdered that were impacted so heavily following George’s murder,” said Storms, who is president of the fund’s board. “And we’re also looking to get money in the hands of nonprofits that benefit that area and work in that area.”

Sam Willis Jr. is eager for his and other businesses in George Floyd Square to receive more support. He was preparing to open his restaurant Just Turkey when the pandemic hit. Then Floyd was killed. The opening was delayed until that fall, and he received $50,000 from the city. But he lamented that the stretch still suffers from a loss of customers and “looks like a Third World country.”

“I’m going to look into it and do the best I can to…go through the process,” he said of the grants.

The grant application guidelines will be discussed during a town hall meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. January 27 with fund board members and City Council President Andrea Jenkins. The event will be held at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, 1101 Harmon Place, Room MSL238. Reservations are recommended by emailing info@theward8fund.org.

Applications must be submitted to the fund’s website, and grants will be funded at the levels of $5,000, $10,000, and $25,000, but larger grants will also be considered.

“I hear from businesses and community members quite frequently, and people are frustrated with the sort of level of support that has been offered to this community,” said Jenkins.

She praised Floyd’s family for donating funds to help the community.

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Maya Rao covers race and immigration for the Star Tribune.