'He's Gonna Change The World': George Floyd's Family Remembers The Man They Lost

Floyd was much more than just a symbol for racist police brutality.

The world knows the 46-year-old Black man who was killed last month by a Minneapolis police officer as George Floyd. His family and friends, however, knew him as a gentle giant, referred to in closer circles as Perry Jr. or Big Floyd. He loved sports and, according to the funeral program, 鈥渨as known for giving the best bear hugs.鈥 He was a father of five, grandfather of two and brother of six.

鈥淗e was a pesky little rascal. But we all loved him,鈥 Floyd鈥檚 aunt Kathleen McGee said with a low chuckle Tuesday during the funeral service for Floyd.

Nearly a dozen lawmakers, artists and activists spoke at Floyd鈥檚 service at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston, where Floyd grew up. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), the Rev. Al Sharpton and R&B singer Ne-Yo were among the high-profile mourners who were there to support the Floyd family. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who met privately with the Floyd family on Monday, spoke via a pre-recorded video played during the service.

They spoke about the injustice of his death on May 25, after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. They talked about what needs to be done to address police brutality and racism against Black people, a fight Floyd became a symbol for when his death launched worldwide protests. But Floyd wasn鈥檛 just a symbol. He was a man. And at the funeral, his aunt, siblings and niece gave a glimpse into who Big Floyd was before his death reignited a movement.

鈥淚 thank God for giving me my own personal Superman,鈥 George鈥檚 sister LaTonya Floyd said through tears during the service.

Floyd鈥檚 niece Brooke Williams spoke about how close he was with his mother, who died a few years ago. Floyd could be heard calling out 鈥淢ama!鈥 in the video of the officer fatally restraining him. He was buried next to his mother at a cemetery in Pearland, Texas.

鈥淚 believe my grandmother was right there with open arms saying, 鈥楥ome home, baby. You shouldn鈥檛 feel this pain,鈥欌 Brooke Williams said.

Brothers Rodney, left, and Philonise Floyd listen to the Rev. Al Sharpton as he gives the eulogy during the funeral service Tuesday for George Floyd in Houston.
Brothers Rodney, left, and Philonise Floyd listen to the Rev. Al Sharpton as he gives the eulogy during the funeral service Tuesday for George Floyd in Houston.

Floyd, who was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, grew up in the 3rd Ward in Houston in a public housing complex called the Cuney Homes. By the time he was in middle school, he was over 6 feet tall, later earning his nickname Big Floyd, The New York Times reported. He loved sports, playing football and basketball at Jack Yates High School in Houston, playing basketball at South Florida Community College for two years, then at Texas A&M University 鈥 Kingsville. Although he didn鈥檛 finish his degree, he was the first of his siblings to attend college.

For the next 10 years or so, Floyd was arrested multiple times, largely for drug-related offenses, and served four years in prison on a robbery charge. He had moved to Minneapolis just a few years ago to start over.

He worked two jobs, one as a bouncer at a restaurant and another as a truck driver, both of which he recently lost due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Less than two months before Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd鈥檚 neck 鈥 killing him over an alleged counterfeit bill 鈥 Floyd had survived coronavirus.

Floyd leaves behind five children. Gianna Floyd, 6, recently sat on the shoulders of former NBA player Stephen Jackson (a close friend of Floyd鈥檚) and declared: 鈥淒addy changed the world!鈥

鈥淢y little brother was a friend, he was a mentor, he was a father, he was a basketball player, he was a football player, but most of all he was a human being,鈥 Terrence Floyd, George鈥檚 brother, said.

Pallbearers carry George Floyd's casket out after services Tuesday at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston.
Pallbearers carry George Floyd's casket out after services Tuesday at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston.
Getty Images

It鈥檚 important to tell the full story of a person鈥檚 humanity, especially when mourning a death as public as Floyd鈥檚, said Arisha Hatch, vice president and chief of campaigns at Color of Change.

鈥淪eeing Black people as fully human is at the core of all of the fights that we鈥檙e in,鈥 she told HuffPost. 鈥淚t鈥檚 our duty, our obligation to fully realize that for Gigi. And I think we have tons of work to do to get there,鈥 she added.

After declaring June 9 to be George Floyd Day in Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) added: 鈥淲e honor him not because he was perfect but... because when he took his last breath, the rest of us will now be able to breathe.鈥

As they celebrated Floyd鈥檚 life, his family also called for justice. Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd, faces charges of second-degree murder without intent, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers on the scene are charged with aiding and abetting Floyd鈥檚 death. Chauvin鈥檚 bail was set at $1.25 million on Monday.

Floyd鈥檚 family said they were confident he wouldn鈥檛 be forgotten.

鈥淓verybody knows who Big Floyd is now. Third Ward. Cuney homes. That鈥檚 where we was born, but we鈥檙e gonna be remembered,鈥 Philonise Floyd, George鈥檚 brother, said during the service. 鈥淓verybody gonna remember him around the world. He鈥檚 gonna change the world.鈥

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