Guilty verdict in George Floyd's murder brought neighbour to his knees, flood of emotion, Winnipeg woman says

When she learned Derek Chauvin had been convicted, Shauna-Jean Matthews said she became extremely emotional, and soon realized others in her Winnipeg neighbourhood were having powerful reactions as well. 

Shauna Matthews says she’s encouraged by conversations young people are having about racial inequality

Winnipegger Shauna-Jean Matthews says when she told a neighbour Derek Chauvin had been found guilty, he fell to his knees. 'If that doesn't explain how deeply important this was, I don't know how else to make it make sense,' she says. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

A Winnipeg woman says the moment she learned Derek Chauvin had been convicted in the murder of George Floyd was extremely emotional — and she quickly realized others in her neighbourhood were having powerful reactions as well. 

Shauna-Jean Matthews, who is Black, was about to go for a walk with her dog, not knowing if she could stomach the verdict in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on the neck of Floyd — a Black man who pleaded for Chauvin to let him breathe.

Then Matthews saw a text from a friend, telling her the verdict in Chauvin's trial for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter: guilty on all counts. 

"It just … it flooded," she said. 

She decided to take her dog for a walk anyway, to process her emotions. While walking past a school in her neighborhood, she saw a Black man who she often says hello to, but doesn't know closely. 

Guilty verdict in George Floyd's murder brought Black man to knees

5 months ago
The murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin triggered immediate reactions around the world including here in our city. CBC's Austin Grabish shows us how this case resonated with one Winnipeg woman. 2:21

"And I couldn't control myself … and I just yelled at him, 'Guilty on all counts,'" she told Information Morning host Marcy Markusa. 

"He fell to his knees," she said. "And I think that if that doesn't explain how deeply important this was, I don't know how else to make it make sense."

She also went to check on her neighbour, who has children who are biracial. When Matthews walked up to her neighbour's home, she could see the woman was literally on the edge of her seat. 

"I will tell you, the look in her face, it spoke volumes," she said. 

LISTEN | Shauna Matthews's conversation with Marcy Markusa: 

Winnipeg Education Assistant Shauna Matthews tells Marcy Markusa that she’s seeing some progress being made towards dismantling racism. 9:09

Those moments of joy will stay with her for the rest of her life, Matthews said — but they were fleeting, as not long after, she learned that police had fatally shot a 16-year-old Black girl in Columbus, Ohio.

"And I'm like … I don't even know how to wrap my head around it, because I just didn't know how I feel," she said.

Hope for future 

Still, the education assistant says she has hope for the future.

Since Floyd's death sparked protests around the world calling for racial equality, she says she's been encouraged to see more conversations about racism happening around her, even with young children.

"There was no way that you were going to avoid [it] — it was everywhere. Kids were seeing it everywhere," she said. 

"So the conversations began for our teachers right away in September, and kids were opening up and asking questions like, 'How could this happen? What's going on?' So those conversations never, never happened before."

She sees other signals of hope, like teachers adding Black history to their curriculum, and her school displaying a sign that declares discrimination and racism won't be tolerated. 

"It makes me proud to walk into this building because the people that I work with, they're doing this. They're making change," she said. 

"They're giving children the confidence to be able to say 'no' against ignorance, 'no, that's not right.' That's how we change the world. That's how we keep fighting."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


With files from Lauren Donnelly and Austin Grabish