After three memorial services in three states, George Floyd was laid to rest in grand fashion Tuesday at Foundation of Life Church in Houston, Texas. Unlike the memorial gathering in Minneapolis on June 4, the services in Raeford, North Carolina, where Floyd was born, and in Houston, Texas where he grew up, offered public viewings of Floyd’s open casket prior to the service. People came from around the country and braved the heat to pay their last respects to a man whose death has galavanized the nation.
More than two weeks have passed since Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25. Video of the fatal arrest showed close to nine tortuous minutes of a police officer pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck as he lay handcuffed on his stomach pinned between a squad car. Since then, people have taken to the streets to protest, riot, and call for justice and police reform.
Rev. Al Sharpton handled the eulogy in Houston, as he did for the Minneapolis service. To his credit, he did not repeat material nor did he mince words. At the Minneapolis eulogy, Sharpton effectively held up Floyd’s suffocation as a symbol of the crippling grasp of institutionalized racism in America.
At the more than four-hour Houston service, Sharpton was at once fiery and even more pointed, as he stirred up a righteous stew of Biblical scripture, politics, and U.S. history.
He jabbed at President Trump for having peaceful protesters teargassed to make way for a photo-op holding an upside-down Bible. Sharpton used Ephesians 6:12’s “spiritual wickedness in high places” as a repeated refrain to frame the Trump administration.
He also called out the NFL for the league’s lukewarm apology to players for not listening to their concerns about racial justice. Don’t stop there, said Sharpton. Give Colin Kaepernick his job back. Kaepernick was effectively blackballed from the league for leading a silent protest against police brutality.
Sharpton also announced a march in August to commemorate the August 28, 1963, March on Washington. The march will be centered on anti-Black policies and led by the Floyd family and others personally impacted by police brutality.
The service included singing by gospel great Kim Burrell and pop/R&B star Neyo, who broke down while singing an acapella version of Boyz II Men’s “Yesterday.” Democratic Presidential candidate and former VP Joe Biden spoke via a videotaped message. Also, a bit of news was broken during the service as Houston Mayor Sylvester Taylor announced that he would ban police chokeholds in the city—a similar measure was already announced in Minneapolis.
At the heart of the service were the remarks from family and friends, who took terms remembering Floyd or “Perry” as some called him, as a father, brother, nephew, protector, provider, “gentle giant” and teammate.
After the homegoing, Floyd’s casket was driven in a horse-drawn white carriage to a burial site next to his mother at Houston Memorial Gardens. “You called for mama. We’re going to lay your body next to her,” said Sharpton. “But I know mama’s already embraced you, George. You fought a good fight. You kept the faith. You finished your course.
“Go on and get your rest now. Go on and see mama now. We’re going to fight on.”
Paige Elliott and Kenneth Foxworth contributed to this story.