George Floyd rested in a golden coffin on Thursday during a private memorial held in the sanctuary of North Central University.
As well-wishers thronged outside, members of Floyd’s family recalled what it was like growing up in a large family with few material comforts, of which Floyd was a big brother, father figure, and provider.
Their stories were followed by a eulogy by civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, and after that, eight minutes and 46 seconds representing the length of time three ex-Minneapolis Police officers crushed Floyd as he pleaded for air.
Here’s how Floyd’s family members depicted the man whose death became a rallying cry for racial justice around the world:
Philonise Floyd, brother
We came up together. We didn’t have much. What our mom did was cook. We would sleep in the same beds, play video games together, go outside and play catch with the football. And I used to say to myself, "Man, you can’t throw. You can’t throw at all, you know what I mean?" Because the ball never came to me. And years down the line, when I was catching one hand, two hands, anyway you threw it, I was starting to catch it, he said, "I can throw, but I just wanted you to go get the ball. The ball don’t need to come to you. You need to get the ball."
My brother, we did a lot of things together from talking to my mom, dancing with our mom, cooking with our mom, brothers and sisters, man, so much. We made banana mayonnaise sandwiches together. You know, it was a family thing. Every day we knew when we came into the house, our mom was gonna have a huge plate of food separate from each other. And we would sit down and ask each other whose plate it was. And I’m like 10 or 11, I’m talking about the plate with six pieces of chicken was mine, and he’s way bigger than me. You know? He’s huge.
From that, being in the house, my brother man, it was just inspiring to other people because my mom used to take in other kids. Most of them was George’s friends. They wanted to stay with her. They loved her, you know. And my brother, he was ok with it. So then you had three – to me they were grown then, because they kicked me out the room – they were three men like 16, 17, they were grown men sleeping in the same bed, waking up going to the same school. They wouldn’t leave each other at all. They always wanted to be with each other at all times.
I remember nights when, the day before school, we didn’t have a washing machine, so we would all go in and put our socks and underwear in the bathroom sink, and just start washing them, and washing them. We didn’t have detergent. We would use soap. But we would be washing. We were gonna be clean. We were gonna be clean. So right after that we would take the socks and hang them over the hot water heater. We’d take the underwear and hang them over there and we would fight about it. Me and his friends and all of us would be like, "No no no, you did it last night! Because your clothes would probably still be damp the next day if you didn’t put it on the hot water heater."
From that, we learned a lot of stuff. But it’s crazy because we would like … we didn’t have a dryer. The fastest way to dry your clothes was to put it in the oven and letting it dry faster like that.
I loved my brother, man. We had so many memories together. I remember him waking me up and telling me, "Hey man, can you iron my clothes for me?" And I’d look at him, but then I’d look at his size, and I’d say, "You right, big brother, you right."
It was just amazing everywhere you go and see people, how they’d cling to him. They wanted to be around him. George, he was like a general. Everyday, he walks outside, there’s be a line of people just like we came in, wanted to greet him and wanted to have fun with him.
Guys that was doing drugs, smokers and homeless people, you couldn’t tell because when you spoke with George, they felt like they were the president. Because that’s how he made you feel. He was powerful. He had a way with words. He could always make you ready to jump and go, all the time. Everybody loved George.
We didn’t call him George. We called him Perry. If you called him Perry, you knew him, direct. Everybody called him big George, Big Floyd, Georgie Porgie, he had so many different names.
It’s crazy man. All these people came to see my brother. And that’s amazing to me that he touched so many people’s hearts. Because he’s been touching all of us. You come to 3rd Ward where we’re from, people are crying right now, that’s how much we loved him. I’m just staying strong as I can because I need to get it out, I need to get it out. Everybody wants justice. We want justice for George. He’s gonna get it. He’s gonna get it.
Shareeduh Tate, cousin
We come from a long line of large families. Our mothers were siblings of 13.
And if I can kind of fast forward a little bit, my aunt lived in Houston. And she would always talk about being there and not having any of our siblings close. So my mother decided to move to the Houston area back in early '80, '81. And so we came to Houston and we were all excited that we could have someone close to us, because the only time we’d see each other is during holidays, or when people would travel to see our grandmother.
Long story short, we didn’t have a whole lot, but we’d always have each other. We always were taught that we should bring people into the fold. No one should ever go home without having a meal, or having food.
Our aunt was someone in the community – they called her a sissy – kids would come over there, and she ended up having 30 to 40 kids. They’d come over there because they always knew they could get something to eat if they came over there. Not only food, but they could be loved and they could feel part of the fold.
We were raised to always welcome people in, embrace other people. And so as you can see, all these people, no matter who you talk to, they’ll all say the same thing. George was always welcome, was someone who could make people feel like they were special.
Nobody felt left out when he would enter into a room. Everybody felt special. He would embrace them.
The thing that I would miss about him the most is his hugs. Like he’d give us these big, giant … when he’d wrap his arms around you, you just felt like you were … Everything could just go away. Any problems you had, any concerns you had, would go away.
So while we’re all grieving, I just want to highlight his children. Quincy … Tanjanica, Tyson and Gianna, and his three-year-old granddaughter Journi.
We all need prayer. But if I am honest about it, we are more concerned about his children and his grandchildren. I ask that you all pray with us as we go along this marathon to make sure that justice is served on George’s behalf, or Perry as we call him. We ask that you pray for us and especially for his children.
Rodney Floyd, youngest brother
We didn’t have much growing up but all that great stuff, how we dried and washed our clothes, that was just ingenuity. We weren’t what we had. We didn’t have much but we had a house full of love. I appreciate the love of everyone in here, in … Minneapolis. We feel that love in your city and frankly everybody around the world. It’s a beautiful thing, it’s a great love we’re receiving, and George Floyd is receiving. Because he would love it.
I wish he were here in the flesh to see it. All this great unity, it would bring him to tears like it’s bringing us.
My brother, Big Floyd as you all know.
Cooking wise, him and other brothers who grew up in our house, they’d say, "Lil bro, you make the best grilled cheese, would you please go make it for us." If I tell y’all, as a little six- or seven-year-old kid, I did that numerous times. I said, "Ya’ll just using me." But you know, I was happy to be doing it.
Big brother. Great guy, great gentleman, great man. As a child without no father figure, he was big brother. But I didn’t see the real stuff … the mistakes he made, and I was watching him, following him, correcting myself as a teenager growing up and learning from him how to be a man. Everything he was doing, his talk, he was doing him, but he was teaching us how to be a man. He was in this world already before us, and he gave us a lot of great lessons.
And I mean, one thing about a man … responsibility: He would stand up for his family, his friends, and he was great at that. He would stand up for any injustice anywhere. Can ya’ll please say his name?
Brandon Williams, nephew
I call him Per. We share the same middle name for some reason. My mom wanted to name us all after some of our siblings and coincidentally I ended up with George.
I’m a lot younger than him. My grandmother raised me. I didn’t have a father figure in my life. So I grew up in the same house with them. My uncles were more of a father figure in my life. With Per being the alpha male, I gravitated to him.
Coming up, I played sports. He did. That kind of connected us, brought us real close.
I’m trying not to be sad. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.
I just remember all of the memories, man. More than anything, I just want to say thank you to him, just for being there, just for being a real, genuine person, just loving and caring and someone I could count on no matter what. We didn’t have much but coming up, my grandma did try her best. Wherever she slacked, he picked it up for me. He made sure I had sneakers and clothes and a lot of stuff like that, and I appreciate that.
I’ll end it with a funny story. He was the biggest LeBron James fan. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the NBA but when the Cavaliers, they came back on the Golden State Warriors in the finals. I remember the very first phone call, "I told him, oh man, you’re too happy. You sound like you won a championship." We laughed about it. He said, "Man, you know how I feel about LeBron. I did win a championship." Every time we’d talk, I’d go, "How’s it going it man? You good?" And he’d say, "I feel like I won a championship." It was just this inside thing we had.
I know with him being the strong person he was -- and seeing everybody come together and just wrapping around him, seeing all the love and support to our family, and we’re thankful and grateful -- I know, more than anything, with everybody grieving and hurting, he’d want us to feel like we won a championship.
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