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Tragedy launches families into broken-hearted activism

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    DALLAS (KTVT) — Botham Jean. Atatiana Jefferson. Jordan Edwards.

Sadly, tragedy explains why we know their names, and those just from North Texas.

“You get the call, and your life immediately changes,” says Alissa Charles-Findley, Botham Jean’s sister.

For the families of those who die at the hands of police, often it is that life altering loss that launches them into positions for which no one applies: grief fueled social activism.

“You have no choice, because immediately you have to start that fight,” says Charles-Findley. “You’re fighting the system, you have to get justice for your loved ones and while all this is happening you meet other families, so you support other families.”

Botham Jean, a Dallas accountant, shot to death in his own apartment in 2018 while watching TV and eating ice cream.

Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was convicted of murder in his death and is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Guyger told jurors that she entered Jean’s apartment thinking it was her own and believed him to be an intruder.

Nothing for the Jean family will ever be the same.

His mother, Allison Jean, told reporters they are the “involuntary club” of also-grieving comforters.

“Last year while trying to grapple with Covid-19, there I was still grieving with Ahmaud Arbery’s mom, with Breonna Taylor’s mom, with the George Floyd family,” says Jean, speaking to reporters last week before the city renamed the street in front of Dallas Police Headquarters in Botham’s honor. “So many, I just stopped counting.”

Earlier this year, Philonese Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, spoke at The Black Academy of Arts & Letters Annual MLK Civil Rights Concert and told CBS 11, “You have to understand, on the day of his funeral I had to fly the next day, I had to testify before Congress. I never had the chance to grieve.”

The families’ activism took them from Capitol Hill to the Texas State House, determined to leverage their pain into systemic change that could one day spare others.

“I just don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” says Floyd. “If I have to keep fighting, that’s what I’m going to have to do because too many people have died. His death will not be in vain.”

And yet another scene from the renaming ceremony reminds that even in the midst of victories, the heartache endures.

“I miss my brother,” Charles-Findley told those assembled. Her voice breaking, her head bowing to the podium, as the tears flowed.

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