George Floyd, the man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has set off nationwide protests, is being remembered as a reformer of his Texas hometown who encouraged black youth to turn from violence before he was killed.
In a video shared by a friend this week, Floyd talks about the younger generation being lost, using guns, and children being killed. He said that while some men involved in street culture seem tough, they are actually living in fear, and he implores them to change their ways.
“Hey man, come on home, man,” Floyd said. “One day it’s going to be you and God. You’re going up or you’re going down.”
Christianity Today ran a lengthy feature on Floyd titled “George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston.”
The publication spoke to people who knew Floyd before he moved from Texas to Minnesota in 2018. His family told the Houston Chronicle that he intended to take a job through a Christian work program. In Houston, friends say he took on the mission of showing young people a better path than gangs and violence, especially in the Cuney Homes housing project:
[Pastor Patrick] Ngwolo and fellow leaders met Floyd in 2010. He was a towering 6-foot-6 guest who showed up at a benefit concert they put on for the Third Ward. From the start, Big Floyd made his priorities clear.
“He said, ‘I love what you’re doing. The neighborhood need it, the community need it, and if y’all about God’s business, then that’s my business,’” said Corey Paul Davis, a Christian hip-hop artist who attended Resurrection Houston. “He said, ‘Whatever y’all need, wherever y’all need to go, tell ’em Floyd said y’all good. I got y’all.’”
The church expanded its involvement in the area, holding Bible studies and helping out with groceries and rides to doctor’s appointments. Floyd didn’t just provide access and protection; he lent a helping hand as the church put on services, three-on-three basketball tournaments, barbecues, and community baptisms.
“He helped push the baptism tub over, understanding that people were going to make a decision of faith and get baptized right there in the middle of the projects. He thought that was amazing,” Ronnie Lillard, a Christian hip-hop artist who published Floyd’s video message, told the magazine. “The things that he would say to young men always referenced that God trumps street culture. I think he wanted to see young men put guns down and have Jesus instead of the streets.”
“His faith was a heart for the Third Ward that was radically changed by the gospel, and his mission was empowering other believers to be able to come in and push that gospel forth,” Nijalon Dunn, who was baptized at Cuney, told Christianity Today. “There are things that Floyd did for us that we’ll never know until the other side of eternity. There were times where we’d have Church at the Bricks until 3 p.m., and by 4:30, they’re firing shots right at the basketball courts.”
Corey Paul, another Houston acquaintance, described Floyd as a “person of peace” who “wanted to see change in the community”:
I knew #GeorgeFloyd personally. So, the media can’t tell me nothing. When we did community outreach in the hood he was a “person of peace”. He wanted to see us come together as a people. They murdered him in the street. You see why #BlackLivesMatter has to be stated. This hurt 😢 pic.twitter.com/uwAH1ygiQX
— Corey Paul (@CoreyPaulMusic) May 26, 2020
Paul shared a message attributed to Floyd, telling a mutual acquaintance that he planned to return to Houston in the summer. While he never made it back, his friends say he will always been remembered — he’ll be “immortalized in the Third Ward community forever,” Lillard said. “His mural will be on the walls. Every youth and young man growing up will know George Floyd. The people who knew him personally will remember him as a positive light. Guys from the streets look to him like, ‘Man, if he can change his life, I can change mine.’”
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