George Floyd’s grieving family members remembered him as a “Superman” in life who’s now been transformed into a “ghetto angel” in death at an emotional homegoing service punctuated by spirited praise and worship inside Fountain of Praise Church in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday.
“I just want to say, I’m gonna miss my brother a whole lot,” one of Floyd’s younger brothers said as he broke down before hundreds of mask-wearing mourners and politicians who came to say their final goodbyes after five days of public memorials.
“I just want to say to him, I love you and I thank God for giving me my own personal Superman.”
The family described sleepless nights and tears sparked by the Memorial Day passing of 46-year-old Floyd, who begged for his life and called for his mother moments before he died with the knee of a Minneapolis police officer still pressing on his neck. Family members shared glimpses of their pain and tried to tell the world about the type of man they lost.
“My uncle was a father, brother, uncle, and a cousin to many; spiritually grounded, an activist. He always moved people with his words,” said Floyd’s niece, Brooke Williams, who promised to fight for justice for her uncle as long as she lives.
“The officer showed no remorse while watching my uncle’s soul leave his body. He begged and pleaded many times just for you to get up, but you just pushed harder.”
Derek Chauvin, 43, a former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled into Floyd’s neck as he died, is now facing second-degree murder charges while three other former officers — J. Alexander Kueng, 26; Thomas Lane, 37; and Tou Thao, 34 — have been charged with aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder.
“Those four officers were literally on him for nine minutes and then [didn’t even] show they have a heart or soul. This is not just murder, but a hate crime,” Williams said as she decried racism in the United States while trying to honor her uncle.
“I share happy memories with my uncle and that’s all I have … memories. I still can’t pull myself together to how he call out my grandma’s name. I believe my grandmother was right there with open arms saying, ‘Come home, baby. You shouldn’t feel this pain. No one should feel this pain.’”
Williams shared how Floyd would pay her to scratch his head after long workdays and how he filled her mind with positive words.
“He always told me: ‘Baby girl, you’re going to go so far with that beautiful smile and that brain of yours,” Williams recalled.
She also remembered a time she was worried about how she and her grandmother would get to another uncle’s wedding and had no way to contact anyone. It was Floyd who jumped in to help.
“But here comes my uncle busting through the door like Superman,” she said. “I was young by the way, probably 10 or 11. My grandmother was also handicapped. He had this big truck we had to ride in. I was wondering how was my grandmother going to get in that truck. But he just placed her in the truck like it was light work.”
Williams said she never questioned anyone’s strength but thought it was “unbelievable” how Floyd and her grandmother “broke their backs to always see their children smile and made a way when it seemed impossible.”
In wrapping up her memories, she paraphrased iconic rapper Tupac Shakur.
“America, it is time for a change. Even if it shall begin with more protest. No justice, no peace,” she said.
Philonise Floyd, another of Floyd’s younger brothers who’s been one of the most outspoken family members since his death, revealed that he’s been struggling to sleep.
“I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about my brother a lot because I couldn’t believe it at first, but I see it now. All I think about is when he was yelling for mama. And I know how mama is. She just right there. She got her hands wide open: ‘Come here, baby.’ Every mama felt that,” Philonise Floyd said.
Brooke Williams, niece of George Floyd, speaks at Floyd’s funeral service in the chapel at the Fountain of Praise Church on June 9, 2020 in Houston, Texas. | Getty Images/ David J. Phillip, Pool)
“But when he yelled, ‘Please! Please! I can’t breathe,’ I stopped wearing ties. I don’t wanna wear a tie no more because I wanna be able to breathe. I went to memorials, no tie.”
Looking down at his brother’s casket, Philonise Floyd said he knows that if his mother was alive, she wouldn’t want to live without his brother.
“If you knew him, a ghetto angel, a ghetto angel, a brother. You know you hate evil but you love good and what my brother was, my little bro was good. You can’t slam his name with me. You can’t talk bad about him to me, as I knew him,” he told mourners. “I ask you [to] fight for my brother. Help me fight for my brother. Help the family fight for my brother.”
Cyril White, director of To God Be The Glory Sports, said he spent many of his college summers playing basketball with Floyd and is now working to establish a George Floyd memorial sports center in Houston.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared June 9 George Perry Floyd Day while politicians including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, shared thoughts on Floyd’s death.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who met with the family privately a day earlier, also delivered a brief message to the family by video in which the former vice president called on Americans to use Floyd’s death to fight for racial justice.
“As I’ve said to you privately — we know. We know you will never feel the same. For most people, the numbness you feel now, will slowly turn, day after day, season after season, into purpose through the memory of the one they lost,” Biden said.
“But for you, that day has come before you can fully grieve. And unlike most, you must grieve in public. And it’s a burden. A burden that is now your purpose — to change the world for the better in the name of George Floyd.”