MINNEAPOLIS — The little girl who witnessed George Floyd's murder is now telling her story.
At 11 years old, Judeah Reynolds has written a book called "A Walk to the Store" and the reason she decided to get published is a story in itself.
Reynolds explained the backstory Thursday while getting her hair done for the first time in a professional salon. She and her family now live in Chicago, but she came back to Minneapolis this week for her book launch, which is set for Oct. 14 — George Floyd's birthday. He would have turned 49 this year.
"She's going fast as Sonic," Reynolds said of stylist Marsha D. Carter as she flat ironed her natural hair.
Reynolds says her mom usually does her hair and can do all kinds of styles but it was clear there was something special about being in the salon chair amongst grown women. When asked what kinds of things she likes to do, Reynolds said, "being a lady." It was a beautiful coming-of-age moment and a break, perhaps, from being sad.
Reynolds was just 9 years old when she and her cousin Darnella Frazier walked to Cup Foods to buy candy, but instead, witnessed George Floyd die. Frazier recorded the cell phone video that would go viral as young Reynolds stood by her side.
"I would just be happy and then make myself cry for some reason," Reynolds said. "It makes me get all my sadness out."
"I had dreams about it," she continued. "My heart starts pumping fast. Sometimes, I feel like I'm going to die … and I still got this pain today."
In April 2020, about a month before the day that changed her life — as well as lives worldwide — nonprofit Urban Ventures gave Reynolds a new book called "Cameron Goes to School." Written by Sheletta Brundidge, the book is about Brundidge's daughter, Cameron, who has autism.
"Judeah said it was the only book she'd ever seen with a Black girl on the cover who wasn't a historical figure like Rosa Parks," Brundidge said. "She remembers that she's got this book with this little Black girl who looks like her with little twisty curls on the cover and so she takes the book to her mama and she says, 'I want to tell my story. I want to write a book like Cameron.'"
"I was like, 'Wow, I want a book, too," Reynolds confirmed. "I want to do the same like her."
Reynolds' mom didn't know Brundidge but found a way to reach her. Now, about two-and-a-half years later, Reynolds is the author of "A Walk to the Store."
The book intentionally avoids illustrations of Floyd's death and the tone is more hopeful than sad. Several pages show how Reynolds' parents helped her cope with what she witnessed. There are also professional tips in the back of the book to help other families dealing with trauma.
"Walk up and step up, get out your shyness," Reynolds said. "That's what my mom taught me so I have to get out my shyness, step up, walk up, be a big girl."
A big girl with a book, Reynolds has also gained a friend.
"The same person who drawed my pictures is the same person who drew Judeah's pictures," nine-year-old Cameron Brundidge said while getting her hair twisted ahead of Reynold's book launch. "We both had challenges. Like, I couldn't talk, and she saw him get killed."
Friday, both girls will attend the official book launch, which involves distributing copies of "A Walk to the Store" to more than 100 elementary school students. Copies will also be available for purchase on Amazon. For more information and to donate to support the Reynolds family, visit the book's website.
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