Culture / Newsy

Colin Kaepernick, Jamie Foxx & Al Sharpton Are All Spotlighted at George Floyd’s Funeral, But the Push to Change the World Must Continue

An Ordinary, Extraordinary Man Hidden in Plain Sight is Laid to Rest, But the Fight Goes On

BY // 06.09.20

George Floyd always wanted to change the world. He told friends as far back as high school of this dream. In a just world, he would have been allowed to do it on his terms. Instead, the son of Houston’s Third Ward, of the Cuney Homes housing projects nicknamed The Bricks, had his life stolen from him by a cruel, cold police officer on a Minneapolis street who ignored his desperate, dying pleas.

Now Floyd’s murder will mean something everlasting if those he leaves behind fight on and keep demanding more change long after the last national news truck has left Houston. (Which will likely be by Wednesday morning.)

Maybe that is one of the reasons it was so hard for so many to say this final goodbye. George Floyd’s funeral services at The Fountain of Praise church lasted for more than three and a half hours on Tuesday. That is a testament to how much there is that still needs to be said. How much there is that still needs to be done.

After a few days of very personal remembrances in Houston, the symbol of hope and unfathomable loss George Floyd has become took center stage in powerful moments during his funeral broadcast around the world. From Houston, from the city Floyd loved most.

“God took an ordinary brother from the Third Ward, from the housing projects, that nobody thought much about but those that knew him and loved him,” Reverend Al Sharpton booms in an often emotional eulogy. “He took the rejected stone, the stone that the builder rejected. They rejected him for jobs. They rejected him for positions. They rejected him to play for certain teams.

“God took the rejected stone and made him the cornerstone of a movement that’s going to change the whole wide world. I’m glad he wasn’t one of these polished, bourgeois brothers, because we’d have still thought we was of no value. But George was just George.”

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Often dismissed, discounted or worse, feared just because of prejudice and engrained racism, George Floyd turned out to be an extraordinary man hidden in plain sight. This became beyond clear when his Houston friends and family came forward to tell stories of his big heart, of his push to help young men get out of the projects. It also shone through when Sharpton turned his attention to the bastions of power in this country that never thought they’d have to consider a George Floyd during his funeral.

Sharpton directed his ire at suddenly repentant NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the shield he protects at one point, without needing to mention Goodell by name.

“Don’t apologize,” Sharpton says. “Give Colin Kaepernick a job back. Don’t come with some empty apology. Take a man’s livelihood. Strip a man down of his talents and four years later when the whole world is marching, all of a sudden you go and do a FaceTime talking about you sorry? Minimizing the value of our lives. You sorry?

“Then repay the damage you did to the career you stood down because when Colin took a knee, he took it for the families in this building and we don’t want an apology, we want him repaid.”

Sharpton says this with Houston Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair and franchise star J.J Watt in the church. Floyd’s funeral draws its share of celebrities. Actors Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum come together. Former NBA player Stephen Jackson (a real friend of Floyd’s) makes sure to be there. Former Texan D.J. Reader shows. Boxing force Floyd Mayweather reportedly covered much of the funeral’s costs. But this is not a day about celebrities.

It is about that ordinary, extraordinary man lying in a golden coffin who is going to change the world.

Al Sharpton George Floyd funeral
Al Sharpton delivered an emotional eulogy at George Floyd’s funeral. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Originally, plans called for limited George Floyd’s funeral service to 500 people in the church to allow for some coronavirus social distancing. That pretty quickly gave way to the sheer force of Floyd’s ability to bring people together — and almost every spot in the 2,500 capacity church is filled for the invite-only service broadcast around the world.

“George Floyd was not expendable,” U.S. Representative Al Green says in his turn speaking.

Floyd is an ordinary, extraordinary man who stumbled and got knocked down by life before he ever went to Minneapolis to try and start anew.

The 46-year-old nicknamed Big Floyd had his life choked out of him by the knee of a Minneapolis cop who treated him as less than human, but that will not be end of his story. The funeral reveals plans for a George Floyd Memorial sports center in the Third Ward spearheaded by Floyd childhood friend Cyril White. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner promises to sign an executive order that will ban chokeholds and strangleholds as a law enforcement tactic in the nation’s fourth largest city. The order will also require Houston Police Officers to give a warning before shooting.

Change is happening — even if there needs to be so much more of it.

Touching Moments During George Floyd’s Funeral

There are plenty of poignant moments during this nearly four hour service, which comes after similar ones in Minneapolis, where Floyd was murdered, and North Carolina, where he was born.

“At the moment when he called out his mama, we believed that the ears of mamas across this nation reared up,” Reverend Dr. Mary White says. “That the ears of mamas across this world heard him cry  —even though for one mama — all mamas began to wail. We began to wail for our children. We began to wail for our grandchildren. We wail for men across this world because of one mama’s call.”

R&B star Ne-Yo broke down twice trying to get through his emotional rendition of Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”

Many people in the packed church, including George Floyd’s family, stood up during Sharpton’s eulogy. Many more everyday Houstonians lined the route of his funeral procession later, cheering on the white horse drawn carriage that took George Floyd the final mile to the Pearland cemetery where he’d be buried next to his beloved mother.

Yet, there were funny, personal moments on this day as well. Like George Floyd’s niece Brooke Williams, the slightest speaker and one of the most powerful, telling the story of how her uncle used to pay her to scratch his head after tough days at work. “When has America ever been great?” Williams asks at one point.

This is clearly an extremely close family, one struggling with its own grief amid the need to help change so much in America.

“I want justice for my brother,” Philonese Floyd says. “He’s going to change the world.”

George Floyd is finally at rest. But the journey to truly change help him change the world has just begun for everyone else.

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