It’s been two weeks of anguished and angry calls for racial justice. Today, George Floyd – the 46-year-old black man who lost his life on May 25 under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis – will be laid to rest next to his mother.
Following days of memorials in Minneapolis (where Floyd was murdered), North Carolina (where Floyd was born) and Houston (where Floyd will be buried in a private ceremony), hundreds of mourners – including actor Jamie Foxx – filled the demure little Fountain Of Praise Church on Hillcroft Ave.
Pallbearers dressed in black suits, white gloves and COVID-19 face masks wheeled in Floyd’s golden casket. R&B artist Ne-Yo performed a rendition of “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” by Boys II Men before speaking to the Floyd family directly who were all dressed in white.
“This man changed the world, he changed the world for the better,” Ne-Yo said. “I just want to personally thank George Floyd for his sacrifice so that my kids could be alright later on.”
Expected Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden appeared via video link and addressed Floyd’s six-year-old daughter Gianna before calling on Americans to use this moment to power the eradication of racial injustice.
“Looking through your eyes, we should also be asking ourselves why the answer is so often too cruel and painful,” Biden said. “Why, in this nation, do too many black Americans wake up knowing that they could lose their life in the course of just living their life? Why does justice not roll like a river or righteousness like a mighty stream? Why?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t turn away. We must not turn away. We cannot leave this moment thinking, we can once again turn away from racism,” he continued.
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Joe Biden delivers video remarks at George Floyd's memorial: "When there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America. And then—as you said, Gianna—your daddy will have changed the world." abcn.ws/2UotwlV #joebiden #goergefloyd #georgefloydmemorial
Family members of other black people killed by police including Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, were also in attendance and acknowledged during the ceremony.
Born in North Carolina, Floyd – remembered today as a gentle giant and talented athlete – graduated from Jack Yates High School where he helped the football team win the state title. He also reportedly played basketball as a power forward and later on was well-known on the Houston music scene as a rapper.
“He was the first person who everybody looked up to in our neighbourhood because he was the first one to get a scholarship to go and play basketball or football when he wanted to do,” Floyd’s brother Philonise said during a visitation ceremony on Monday.
Floyd was killed in broad daylight after being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit cheque in a store. The police officer on the scene, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, killing him as shocked onlookers watched on, screaming for Chauvin to release his weight. Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder and three other officers on the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
Floyd’s death has given rise to the first civil rights movement of its kind as this generation of protesters come armed with a cell phone and a WiFi connection and ready to hold police officers accountable. Perhaps Will Smith put it best: Racism hasn’t changed, it’s just being filmed now. But it appears to be already making some change.
The New York State Assembly passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act on Monday. Named for Garner, who was killed in 2014 after being placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer, the bill criminalises the use of chokeholds that result in injury or death. It is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“If he was told he would have to sacrifice his life to bring the world together, and knowing him, I know he would’ve did it,” Floyd’s other brother Rodney said. “It seems unreal because, you know, every day is like waiting on that phone call. I’m still calling his phone number.”
May he rest in paradise.