CHARLOTTE, N.C. — "Come up with a better way." That message heard loud and clear nationwide after a Charlotte small business owner, went viral for bringing two black men together to discuss how to turn their anger into action.
The viral exchange led by 31-year-old Curtis Hayes happened on Saturday in the middle of a protest on Interstate 277 in response to the death of George Floyd.
Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
”The last thing that I wanted to happen was for that situation to turn from peace to chaos,” Hayes said.
In the viral protest video, Hayes is seen confronting a 45-year-old protester who said he was ready to die to stop injustice against black people.
“He’s my elder. I wanted to talk to him because I wanted to let him know that even though they’re ignoring you I hear you, I see you I feel your pain but we have to move in a right way,” Hayes said.
Hayes then turned his attention to a 16-year-old teenager in the crowd, bringing him into the conversation by challenging him to change the narrative.
“I recognized him first because I had to let him know that he had younger generations that were watching him," Hayes said.
“I challenged him to come up with a better way because the way we are going about this isn’t working,” Hayes said.
This is not the first time the Charlotte businessman has caught national attention.
“I was a barrier then, I’m a barrier now,” Hayes said.
In 2016, he acted as a barrier between police and demonstrators in Charlotte following the death of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man shot and killed by police.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think and I wanted to see what was the problem, where was the disconnect. My white peers have to challenge their white communities for change,” Hayes said.
Today his message is still the same.
“Its time to really address the elephant in the room," Hayes said. "I'm going to check my peers, I’m asking all white people to check their peers, talk to them create the dialogue that’s what needs to happen. We have to set the tone, we have to set an example."
So generations to come can live without the dangers of fighting a fight that should’ve ended years ago.
“We grow up in it, we grow into it, we need to grow out of it," he said.
To help “Come up with a better way,” Hayes said he plans to create a platform that allows younger generations to let their voices be heard.
He's hoping those conversations will spark change and create a new normal where is racism is no longer a reality.