George Floyd, the black man who died while being detained by a Minnesota police officer, has been remembered fondly as a man of faith who helped bring peace to a crime-ridden area of inner-city Houston.
Much of Minneapolis has been gripped by mass protests after footage emerged of a police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for a prolonged period of time during the arrest, causing him to fall unconscious. Despite repeated cries from Floyd that he could not breathe, the officer refused to release him from the hold and Floyd later died. The officers involved in the incident have since been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department and the FBI is investigating the incident. The Department of Justice has insisted that the case is a "top priority."
Floyd, 46, had moved to Minneapolis in 2014 after getting a job through a Christian work program. Prior to relocating, Floyd grew up and lived in the notorious "Third Ward" area of Houston, where he became an elder statesmanlike figure known as “Big Floyd." Harbouring a deep desire to affect change in his local area, Floyd ushered various Christian ministries into the neighbourhood in a bid to see young men turn away from crime and embrace Christian principles of peace and love.
“George Floyd was a person of peace sent from the Lord that helped the gospel go forward in a place that I never lived in,” Patrick PT Ngwolo, pastor of the local "Resurrection Houston," told Christianity Today. “The platform for us to reach that neighbourhood and the hundreds of people we reached through that time and up to now was built on the backs of people like Floyd."
Ngwolo said the first time faith leaders encountered Floyd was when he showed up to a benefit concert that was held for projects on the Third Ward. Christian hip-hop artist Corey Paul Davis recalled Floyd's words: “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."
“He said, ‘Whatever y’all need, wherever y’all need to go, tell ’em Floyd said y’all good. I got y’all.’”
Alongside providing access to the community as a trusted middle-man, Floyd also reportedly "lent a helping hand as the church put on services, three-on-three basketball tournaments, barbecues and community baptisms."
Local artist Ronnie Lillard said of Floyd: “He helped push the baptism tub over, understanding that people were going to make a decision of faith and get baptised right there in the middle of the projects. He thought that was amazing.
“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.”