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George Floyd: the man who ignited a revolution with “I can’t breathe” last words

It is never too late to make a difference. After 46 years on earth, the world got to George Floyd in 2020 following his untimely death in the hands of a one, Derek Chauvin, the man who continued to increase pressure on George Floyd’s neck as the victim begged for breath for 8 minutes and 26 seconds.

And who would have imagined that a mere black American, a bouncer, would become the face of a revolution and activism against racial injustices not only in America but globally?

George Floyd memorial was held on 4th June 2020. It featured great speakers who called for the end of racial injustices in America and the world over. I am happy that I tuned to CNN to watch the proceedings in full. Great speakers. Very memorable indeed.

Below are detailed proceedings collected from various sources:

The Memorial proceedings were opened by Robin Wilkerson, who welcomed the guests.

In his opening remarks, he said: “My name is Robin Wilkerson and I am the co-chancellor of North Central University. To all the friends and the family of George Floyd and all of our esteemed guests here today, I want to welcome you on behalf of the University, on behalf of Dr Scott Hagen President, on behalf of the Board of Regents, on behalf of the Faculty. We are so grateful that you have all joined us today. We are honoured you have come to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of George Floyd. On behalf of everyone here, I want to personally express our deepest condolences for this tragic loss.”

He continued with a passage from Psalm 27:

“On behalf of the Pastors from Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Blood’s on the Southside, Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords on the North-side, Psalm 27. The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall, I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though the host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. The war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing has I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble, he shall hide me in his pavilion and the secret of his tabernacle surely hide me. He shall set me up upon a rock.”

He was followed by Dr Scott Hagen:

“I want to invite you now to pray with me, if you will. Lord, your word in Proverbs 31 is dynamically clear. It says to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and the helpless and see that they get justice. Lord, we are asking today for you to take this table of healing here in Minneapolis today and multiply this healing all over this nation as part of that now never-fading voice crying out on behalf of those who have been and who are now being crushed in body and spirit.”

Then came Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the family of George Floyd at the forefront of the fight for justice for the victim.

“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we have to stay on a strict schedule, and we all have to do social distancing. But I want to just put it on the record, that it was not the coronavirus pandemic that killed George Floyd. I want to make it clear. Will Packer, it was that other pandemic that we are familiar with in America, that pandemic of racism and discrimination that killed George Floyd. Before we make a plea to justice, we feel it appropriate that you hear from the people who really knew George the boy, knew George the adolescent, knew George the man and from whence George came.”

He then introduced the family of George Floyd and asked them to come and speak to the audience.

First, was Philonise Floyd, who reminisced about good old days with his brother and family, and their humble background with a single mom. It was an emotional speech.

Next on was the sister, Shareeduh Tate, who echoed the words of the brother and added

 

“So while we’re all grieving, I just want to kind of highlight his children, Quincy, Javion, Tangenika, Tyson, and Giana, and his three-year-old granddaughter Journey. We all need prayer. But if I am honest about it, we are more concerned about his children and his grandchildren. So I ask that you pray for us as we go along this marathon to make sure that justice is served on George’s behalf or Perry as we call him, ask that you pray for us and especially for the children. Thank you.”

Then Benjamin Crump, the Family Lawyer who invited the maverick Reverend Al Sharpton.

He started by thanking the people who had turned up for the memorial and reminding them that. “I want us to not sit here and act like we had a funeral on the schedule. George Floyd should not be among the deceased. He did not die of common health conditions. He died of a common American criminal justice malfunction. He died because of there has not been the corrective behaviour that has taught this country that if you commit a crime, it does not matter whether you wear blue jeans or a blue uniform, you must pay for the crime you commit. So it is not a normal funeral. It is not a normal circumstance, but it’s too common and we need to deal with it.” He added, “Let me ask those of you that in the traditions of eulogies need a scriptural reference, go to Ecclesiastes, third chapter first verse says “To everything that is a time and a purpose and season under the heavens.” I’m going to leave it there. I saw somebody standing in front of a church the other day where it had been bought it up as a result of violence, held The Bible in his hand. I’ve been preaching since I was a little boy, I’d never seen anyone hold a Bible like that, but I’ll leave that alone. But since he held The Bible, if he’s watching us today, I would like him to open that Bible. And I’d like him to read Ecclesiastes three, to every season there’s a time and a purpose. And I think that it is our job to let the world know when we see what is going on in the streets of this country and in Europe, around the world, that you need to know what time it is.”

You need to know what time it is. First of all, we cannot use Bibles as a prop. And for those that have agendas that are not about justice, this family will not let you use George as a prop. If you want to get your stuff off, don’t use him. Let us stand for what is right. Because when I got the call from Attorney Crump, and usually when he calls me, it’s not to find out how I’m doing. It’s usually because something happened that he wants National Action Network and me to get involved. And he explained to me what was happening with this case. And I’d already heard about it in the media. And immediately I said, “Well, let me know what you want me to do.” He said, “Whatever you need to do.” One of the things, Martin, that I’ve always had to deal with is critics would say, “All Al Sharpton wants is publicity.” Well, that’s exactly what I want, because nobody calls me to keep a secret.

Soon as I talked to the family and got the details and heard that among George’s last words was, “I can’t breathe,” with a knee on his neck, I immediately thought about Eric Gardner. I did the eulogy at his funeral and I called his mother. And I said, “I know we’re not going out because of the coronavirus. But this is so much like Eric. If we could arrange some private way to go to Minneapolis, would you go?” And she said, “Reverend Al, I’m already packing. Let me know.” Tyler Perry said, “I’ll give the families the plane, whatever you all need because this is wrong.” Robert Smith said, “Don’t worry about the funeral costs.”

People across economic and racial lines started calling and getting in. And we flew out here, her and I last Thursday. And when I stood at that spot, the reason it got to me is George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter than the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills. We could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country in education, in health services and in every area of American life. It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, “Get your knee off our necks.”

That’s the problem no matter who you are. We thought maybe we had a complex, TI, maybe it was just us. But even blacks that were broke through, you kept your knee on their neck. Michael Jordan won all of these championships and you kept digging for the mess because you got to put a knee on our neck. Wait, housewives would run home to see a black woman on TV named Oprah Winfrey. And you mess with her because you just can not take your knee off our neck. A man comes out of a single-parent home, educates himself and rises and becomes the president of the United States. And you ask him for his birth certificate because you can not take your knee off our neck. The reason why we are marching all over the world is we were like George, we couldn’t breathe, not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but that you wouldn’t take your knee of our neck. We don’t want any favours. Just get up off us and we can be and do whatever we can be. There’ve been protests all over the world. Some have looted and done other things. And none of us in this family condones looting or violence. But the thing I want us to be real cognizant of is there’s a difference between those calling for peace and those calling for quiet. Some of you all don’t want peace, you just want quiet. You just want us to shut up and suffer in silence. The overwhelming majority of the people marching weren’t breaking windows, they were trying to break barriers. They weren’t trying to steal anything. They were trying to get back the justice you stole from us. Those that broke the law should pay for whatever law they broke. But so should the four policemen that caused this funeral today. We don’t have a problem denouncing violence, Mr Governor. We don’t have a problem, Mr Mayor denouncing looting, but it seems like some in the criminal justice system have a problem looking at tape and knowing there’s probable cause. And it takes a long time for you to go and do what you see that you need to do. But I’m one that has then Crump said, National Action Network and I have been involved in a lot of these fights. We started around criminal justice. I did speeches and eulogies at most of the funerals that we’ve had in this space in the last couple of decades and led the marches and did what we had to do. I look at Martin III, we went to jail together fighting these fights as his daddy went to jail before. But I’m more hopeful today than ever. Why? Well, let me go back. Reverend Jackson always taught me, stay on your text. Go back to my text, Ecclesiastes. There are a time and a season. And when I looked this time and saw marches where in some cases, young whites outnumbered the blacks marching, I know that it’s a different time and a different season.

When I looked and saw people in Germany marching for George Floyd, it’s a different time and a different season. When they went in front of the Parliament in London, England and said, “It’s a different time and a different season.” I come to tell you America, this is the time of dealing with accountability in the criminal justice system.

Steven, he has a goal. I went to the march. Now I remember a young white lady looked me right in the face and said, “N****r go home.” But when I was here last Thursday and Ms Gardner and I was headed back to the airport, I stopped near the police station. And as I was talking to a reporter, a young white girl, didn’t look older than 11 years old, she tagged my suit jacket and I looked around and I braced myself and she looked at me and said, “No justice, no peace.” It’s a different time. It’s a different season.

And if my Bible carrying guy in front of that boarded-up the church, if I got him to open up the Bible, I want you to remember something. You know I was late last October to an appointment because the time changed. And I was still, my watch was at the wrong time. Once a year, time goes forward. And if you don’t, Congresswoman Omar, move your watch, you’re going to find yourself an hour late, not because your watch was wrong, but you had your watch on the wrong time.

Well, I come to tell you that as sitting in Washington talking about militarizing the country, thinking that you can sell wolf tickets to people who’s had enough of abuse. I’ve come to tell you, you can get on the TV, put you on the wrong time, time is out for not holding you accountable. Time is out for you making excuses. Time is out for you trying to stall. Time is out for empty words and empty promises. Time is out for you filibustering and trying to stall the arm of justice. This is the time we won’t stop. We going to keep going until we change the whole system of justice.

Our organizations have called this a day of mourning. NAACP, National Urban League, Legal Defense Fund, Black Woman’s Round Table, all got together, said, “We’re going to have a day of mourning, but then we’re going to come out this day mourning.” Because at some of our experts, Cheryl and others that know the legal field, they have outlined a legal process that we must enforce, everything from residency to dealing with police backgrounds not being hidden. Talked to Governor Andrew Cuomo today in New York. He says we got to change things where the backgrounds stop for policemen. We need to know if they stop you, they find out everything you ever did. Why don’t we know when policemen have a pattern?

We got to go back to consent decrees. Under the Obama administration, they had put certain cities with patterns and practice under consent decrees. Reverend Jamal Bryant to know where he was pastoring there in Baltimore, that they put it under the consent decree. One of the first thing that happened in the next administration was they stopped the consent decrees. We have specific policies that need to happen. Therefore, I’m glad Martin III is here today because on August 28, the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, we’re going back to Washington, Martin. That’s where your father stood in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial and said, “I have a dream.” Well, we going back this August 28th to restore and recommit that dream, to stand up because just like at one era, we had to fight slavery, another era we had to fight Jim Crow, another era we dealt with voting rights. This is the era to deal with policing and criminal justice. We need to go back to Washington and stand up black, white, Latino, Arab in the shadows of Lincoln and tell them, “This is the time to stop this.”

We, Martin and I talked about this.

I have asked Reverend Bryant to get the faith leaders together and talk. Randy White got about the labour leaders. Oh no, we going to organize in the next couple of months in every region, not only for a march but for a new process. And it’s going to be led by the Floyd family. And it’s going to be led by the Gardner family. And it’s going to be led by those families that have suffered this and knows the pain and know what it is to be neglected. And it’s going to be getting us ready to vote, not just for who’s going to be in the White House, but the statehouse and the city councils that allow these policing measures to go unquestioned. We are going to change the time.

Let me say this to the family who has shown such great grace and real level and balanced thinking. And that’s why I want them to help lead this. And I want, I think one of the greatest thinkers of our time, Dr Michael Eric Dyson, I’ve asked to come and speak. We need to break down because you all don’t know what time it is. You all are operating like it’s yesterday. And the reason you all late catching up to what these protests mean is that you didn’t turn your clock forward. Talking about making America great. Great for who and great when? We going to make America great for everybody for the first time.

Never was great for blacks. Never was great for Latinos. It wasn’t great for others. Wasn’t great for women. You all women had to march to get the right to vote. But lastly is the religious side. I was reading and kept thinking about how I was a little embarrassed because when I heard that George, at this point of suffering this brutal attack, called for his mama. I said, to Attorney Crump, I said, “Well, I appreciate talking to his brothers and them on the phone, but I want to talk to his mother.” He said, “His mother passed.” I said, “His mother passed? But he was calling for his mother.” And I thought about it because I was raised by a single mother. And sometimes the only thing between us and our conditions was our mothers. Sometimes the only thing that we had that would take the danger away was our mothers. The only ones that would make sure that food was on the table were our mother. I know why George was calling for Mama.

But then as I had gotten that all placed in my mind and I realized why I was always calling and my mother died eight years ago, but I still try to talk to her. Sometimes, just dial a cell phone to hear the voicemail on the phone that I never cut off. I still want to reach out to Mama. But talking to Quincy last night, one of his five children, Quincy said, “You know I was thinking maybe he was calling his mother.” Because at the point that he was dying, his mother was stretching her hands out saying, “Come on, George, I’ll welcome you where the wicked will cease from troubling, where the weary will be at rest. There’s a place where police don’t put knees on you, George. There’s a place that prosecutors don’t drag their feet.” Maybe Mama said, “Come on, George. There’s a God that still sits high, but he looks down low and he’ll make a way out of nowhere.”

This God is still on the throne. The reason we can fight… I don’t care who’s in the White House. There’s another house that said, “If will fight, he’ll fight our battles. If we stand up, he’ll hold us up.” So as we leave here today, I say to this family, I know that years ago we told them, Reverend Jackson told us, keep hope alive. Then I know that President Obama wrote a book about hope. But I want you to know in my life there are times that I lost hope. Things can happen like this that’ll dash your hope. But there’s something that is sister to hope called faith. Faith is the substance of things. Hope for the evidence of things unseen. Faith is when you got a pile of bills and no money, but you say he will provide all of my needs. Faith is when you got no medicine in the cabinet and you’re sick in your body. But you say he’s a doctor that never lost a patient. And he’ll drive tears from my eyes.

Faith is when your friends walk out when your loved ones turn their back, but you say, “I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me now.” We didn’t come this far by luck. We didn’t come this far by some fate. We come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in his Holy word. He never, he never, he never failed me yet. From the outhouse to the White House, we come a long way. God will. God shall. God will. God always has. He’ll make a way for his children. Go on home, George. Get your rest, George. You changed the world, George. We going to keep marching, George. We’re going to keep fighting, George. We did turn the cop, George. We going forward, George. Time out. Time out. Time out. We asked gospel great, Hezekiah Walker, to sing a song for the family after which Derrick Johnson of the NAACP asked me, Attorney Crump, we’re going to stand for eight minutes and 46 seconds. That was the time that George was on the ground. And we want you all over the world to stand with us for eight minutes and 46 seconds and make that commitment for justice and the name of George. I want to thank the members of the Congressional Black Caucus for being with us. Won’t you stand? I want to thank the son and heir and co-convener, Dr Martin Luther King III for being with us.

I want to thank the mayor and the governor and their brides for being with the family. Senator Amy Klobuchar of the State of Minnesota. I want to thank my mentor and one who’s fought this fight for more than a half a century, reverend Jesse Louis Jackson is with us. And his spokesman for Rainbow Push, Jonathan Luther Jackson. I want to thank from the entertainment world, Kevin Hart. He told me don’t mention he’s here, so don’t clap. Stand up, Kevin. We joke with each other. Brother beloved stand up, brother, Brother Ludacris. Tyrese Gibson who’s an extraordinary activist in his own right. Master P. The one and only, the creative genius, Will Packet is with us today. And a brother that we’ve marched together and done a lot of things. He does not just put his name on somebody’s petition. He puts his body on the line. Brother T.I. is in the house.

I want… This brother’s one of the greatest gospel singers alive. Is Tiffany here? Oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I didn’t want to announce and say I’m embarrassed to let me tell you something. One of the most popular, outstanding artists that are also committed. I’ve read her interview. She thinks I’m old and don’t read the stuff, but I do. And she’s been committed and saying the right things and she wanted to be here today. And I was so busy joking with Kevin, I didn’t even look at her. Let us welcome our sister beloved, Sister Tiffany Haddish is in the house. Well, I’m going to announce all the rest. Wait a minute. You all don’t start introducing folks. I got them all. Let us hear a selection from Brother Hezekiah Walker.

Thank you for doing what y’all are doing.

When I got here, they were marching, and they kept marching. They didn’t need anybody to come to organize them. They organized, and we going to stay organized. I really thank them for their work. We want to pause for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Because of the pandemic, I’m not going to ask you to take hands, but I want you to stand next to someone with the right distance.

The amazing thing about this movement, people said they’d never seen marches all over the country. Well, we’ve had that, but we never had it in a pandemic. The reason I know this is a different time is people came out by the hundreds of thousands at risk of their own health to stand up. People that had been sheltered in broke out of the shelter. First flight I took was to come here in many weeks.

Maybe, in God’s own way, Martin, the fact we were sheltered means we couldn’t watch sports, couldn’t watch nothing. We had to keep watching that tape. Maybe because we had no distractions, that finally, we’re ready to deal with this. So as we stand, I would like us to stand together, and I think there’s only one woman up here. Tiffany says I was disrespectful. Would you come to stand with us up here, Tiffany Haddish, so you won’t be talking about me and your next interview?

And towards the end, Al Sharpton, asked all members in the audience to stand up to observe the 8 minutes and 26 seconds of silence in memory of the late George.

“I would like the mother of Eric Garner, who’s mother of the one who originally died in police custody saying, “I can’t breathe” to stand with me and Ben Crump onstage, Miss Gwen Carr.

Let us stand. Somebody said, “Reverend eight minutes is a long time.” That meant it was long enough for the police to understand what they were doing. That meant it was long enough for one of the three cops to stop what was going on. That means it was long enough for whatever this officer had in mind, for him to rethink. As you go through these long eight minutes, think about what George was going through, laying there for those eight minutes, begging for his life, heard someone say narrating his own death. We can’t let this go. We can’t keep living like this.

Sam Jackson, is Sam still here?

Steve Jackson, Steve Jackson, is he here? Steve? We want to recognize … I was recognizing everybody. We’ve got to stop this here, and we’ve got to, in this time, bring about a new season. Let us stand still. You that believe in faith, bow your heads, or whichever way you worship.

[total silence for 8 minutes and 26 seconds.]

 

That’s a long time. If we’ve calculated with the clock here, that’s how long he was laying there. There’s no excuse. He had enough time. They had enough time. Now, what will we do with the time we have? As we usher the family out, please let us take them out first. They have to prepare to go to North Carolina and then back to Houston, where we will do the final services. They appreciate you all for coming. Let everybody else be seated but the family. Reverend Brian, will you come quickly, give us a benediction? Just a benediction and we’re going to take the family out. Everyone else, remain in your seats.

Ends/

Sources:

  1. BBC memorial coverage, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52928304

https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/full-george-floyd-memorial-service-transcript

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