There are no words, to convey, any comfort, for the loss of a loved one, under these circumstances. One of the rights, that we are endowed with by our Creator, is the right to live a full life, without its premature interruption, at the hands of another human being. No right on earth is more fundamental. And the government has no greater, unstated, obvious purpose than to secure this right.
The words that we are able to muster are the embodiment of the spirit endowed to each of us by our Creator. For deep within every breath that we breathe, mindfully or not, is a spiritual journey. To the Floyd family, we are profoundly sorry for your loss; for your loss is our loss and our lives are diminished by the absence of the unity of George’s flesh and spirit. George’s spirit is why we are here today. His respiration (his divinity), his aspiration, (his will), his perspiration (his work), his inspiration (his love of neighbor), his expiration (death) has inspired the world to action. His life mattered. Soon we will bury his flesh, but his resurrected spirit matters. And we are reminded, of just how important, his living spirit is, in a poem written by English poet John Donne,
No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send, to know, for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.
We all share the same spirit. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Floyd, I did not know that within him, he had the power to change the direction of the World, only God knew that in her infinite wisdom. This is why we are here. Today “the bell tolls; for us.” George Floyd is not the first Black man to have his spirit separated from his flesh, but America, and I believe the message for governments around the world, through their police and their agents, we want him to be the last. The unity of mind, body, and spirit is our God-given endowment. We have a right to that endowment, without the intervention of a Government, or the threat of its loss, at the hand of another human being.
I was reading an article written by Lonnae O’Neal and printed in National Geographic, this morning and she titled it, “George Floyd’s mother was not there, but he used her as a sacred invocation,” she subtitled it “With his dying breaths, Floyd called for her as an assurance of memory.” Lonnie O’Neal writes from the perspective of an anguished mother, that in my own mind may give us a new insight into the experience at Calvary. She writes,
“Please, man!” Floyd begs as he is ground into the pavement. His pleas mix with the ambient noises around him. They are the disjointed sounds from the clash of belief systems and competing visions of sovereignty, of ownership, of authority over black bodies compressed into the narrow frame of Floyd’s last moments.
“Momma!” Floyd, 46, calls out. “Momma! I’m through,” the dying man says, and I recognize his words. A call to your mother is a prayer to be seen. Floyd’s mother died two years ago, but he used her as a sacred invocation.
“He is a human being!” comes an anguished plea from someone in a desperate attempt to engage the officers’ reason or compassion or oaths of office. But at that moment, those officers are beyond the reach of humanity. Not Floyd’s, but their own.
When I read this article I was moved to tears because it reminded me of standing before a federal judge and looking over at my mother, when my actions and behaviors had brought disgrace upon my family and at that moment I too was gasping for air. I couldn’t breathe.
In this life, I have delivered a few Eulogies and I have two conclusions, First that we live our lives as if life is certain and death is uncertain, but death is certain and life is uncertain. The Second conclusion I have reached from the perspective of a eulogist is funerals are a lot less about the dearly departed but about those of us who remain. Before the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment our ancestors could gather and the Eulogy was loaded with Freedom talk. There was talk of a future state in heaven, that was far more promising than the hell they were experiencing. There was talk of a desire for aid. “Who can aid us?” Can aid us, can aid us, Canada. The underground railroad became a path to a different life on earth. The underground railroad became a rare path to a practical, pragmatic, beyond philosophical existentialism. A kind of earthly heaven.
This road is captured in all three verses that traverse human spirit in James Weldon Johnson’s “The Negro National Anthem.” and it is captured in “Let America Be America Again.”
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath-
America Will Be!
by Langston Hughes
George Floyd said, I can’t breathe:
One of the first things a physician does, when the physician welcomes a new child in the world is to turn the child upside down, a light gesture on the back, and a slap on the behind, to shock the child into the reality that life is no longer in the womb, and in that instance, a child comes to terms with their first God-given endowment, the right to breath, the idea of breathing is born. Then the physician turns to the mother and lets the mother know that the child is breathing. At this moment the mother has a knowing, the spirit is present and after 9 long months, the Spirit has flesh.
George Floyd said I Can’t Breathe:
We are here today because the spirit of George Floyd has called all of us to an impromptu and emergency, “Enough is Enough meeting,” that we the living would not have been able to call for ourselves. We are here today because at the hour of his death, he was hungry and he thirsted. At the hour of his death America’s plan of low expectations for him and the possibility of incarceration and lifelong felonization. At the minute of his death, transcended it all and entered divinity, eternity, and changed the course of human history.
George Floyd said I Can’t Breathe:
We are here today because we have a choice of death by disease, death by cop, or as Thomas Paine said, “If trouble comes, let it come to me, that my child may be free.” When presented with the stark choice, “live free or die”, or Jefferson’s theoretical ideal of “life, liberty, and happiness”, like the spirit of our ancestors that unfolded on the screen adapted from the Amistad Africans, we demand that America, for our children, “Give us Free.”
George Floyd said I Can’t Breathe:
We are here today because Fannie Lou Hammer was right, “ We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
We are here because James Baldwin was right, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all of the time.”
We are here today because Jesse Jackson is right Red Yellow Brown black and white we are all precious in God’s sight.
George Floyd said I Can’t Breathe:
Why can’t we breathe? Because we now know in a Pandemic, corporate interests and the stock market, and bailouts are a priority for the government, over the food around our table, and the success or failure of the stock market has nothing to do with our liberty and happiness, but, the police and the agents of the government, can still put their knee on our neck, threaten our very being, our lives. And In America, we can never forget that we live under the threat of imminent harm for looking at birds too long.
America- we Can’t Breathe:
Why can’t we breathe? Because a novel-virus is disproportionately killing black, brown, poor, and elderly Americans. We are not unmindful of the fact that when white America saw Italians and German and Europeans dying she reacted by shutting down her borders, closing states, shutting down industry,, but when our “domestic statistics through testing” showed that black people were dying at a greater rate than white people, not only did our national leadership abandon testing as a national priority, our national leadership decided to expedite the opening of asymptomatic America and use our government and our money as taxpayers to bludgeon Americans back to work in unsafe and unacceptable conditions and many of our asymptomatic white friends went to the beach, knowing full well there is nothing we can do including work alongside them in a diverse America without a vaccine.
America-we Can’t Breathe:
We reflected upon our breath. While Observing the American Passover we turned our focus to our neighbor and we realized, they didn’t have enough masks and protective equipment to provide for us or themselves in the event of illness and disease, We dreamed of the need to build a New America with a new beginning and we refused to ignore that 40 million Americans were out of work, through no fault of their own, numbers not seen since the great depression. This was a mighty dream we had around our Passover table and we have always known that the Negro in America is last hired and first fired when the economy is Bull and Bear, we suffer. But still, we reflected upon our neighbor and our infinite possibility together as Americans.
America-we Can’t Breathe:
Martin Luther King told us why? because “no lie can live forever.” America saw what we have seen and experienced some version of this brutality so many times that the world wouldn’t believe it, whether it is a negro watching birds in a Park or a Police officers with his knee on a black man’s neck, our neighbor would not have believed it without the video. This is a teachable moment for you. The video documentation of these horrific events is telling us nothing that we didn’t know, we leave quarantine because of you and because our neighbors, whom we love, have a “new knowing.”
We are here because our patience has run thin, and we have run out of peaceful, nonviolent solutions, to a centuries-old American problem of racial discrimination and public and private lynchings and the tragic reality that pacifism and dialogue hasn’t gotten us anywhere but to the next “enough is enough” meeting. From Trayvon Martin to LaQuan McDonald to Eric Garner, to George Floyd, from Sandra Bland to Brionna Taylor, we can’t protect ourselves or our women.
America we Can’t Breathe:
Why can’t we breathe? Because something is wrong with the entire science of forensic pathology when a scientist can come on national and international television and attempt to describe for half of all reasonable people on earth, that his conclusion was a death that is different from what more than a billion people have watched with their own two eyes. How could anyone accept that this man died from a comorbidity? That the primary cause of death was not asphyxiation by cop, but that he died from something else? Whatever he had, before a knee was placed on his throat, he lived with, for 46 years. The intervening event in his life is a knee in the throat. How is this acceptable? The coroner’s report is designed to help the cop in a court of law, and why hasn’t the coroner been investigated for falsifying his report? Something is systemically wrong when first-degree murder is reduced to third-degree and the pathology report is inconsistent with what most people on planet earth saw. Unarmed black men do not walk into bullets, no black man or woman crawls into a submission asphyxiating headlock, and no American is gullible enough to believe that a system this corrupt between prosecutor and coroner is credible.
Dr. James Forbes, one of the most prolific and profound preachers in the United States, shared with me recently that in the words inspiration, aspiration, respiration, and expiration is the word spirit, in each human breath is a person’s spirit, he said we are in an “advanced stage of depraved indifference towards life,” when a system teaches law-enforcement techniques to deprive a person of spirit, and then when a man Tapout’s’ and tells you “he can’t breathe” and when the government allows the officer to continue to apply the technique unless caught on video, the government is advancing a technique to deprive the American people of the divine, and to surrender their spirit. When applied to civilians, it is applied to change the sprite of a community or kill it. When another human being tells you they can’t breathe, they are tapping out. That means stop. No means no, that too means stop.
Our protest is at the highest level of our faith, occurring in a pandemic, with an unresponsive government, that’s the context.
From 1619 to the present, before the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution (1787) and the Bill of Rights (1791) before the Tenth Amendment and States Rights, from the beginning of time, our human rights were guaranteed to us by our Creator and no declaration, constitution, or amendment can undermine that spiritual endowment.
In America, the right to “Rebellion Against Tyranny” is as fundamental as the right to breath.
The great insult, of course, is that America continues to put “her property interests over our being.” Our being is contingent upon having a breath. Dr. King said,
“I was aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons-who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it, (property) with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man.”
Any person of color, and any American who has read, digested and understood American history understands that the Negro in America, through hard work and long struggle and sacrifice has had to move public opinion on the very question of their being over property, from 3/5ths of a human being in the Constitution and regarded as chattel property and slavery within in the states just to enjoy our present protections under the Constituionton.
I believe our King was trying to tell us that white America has never known what it means to be treated or thought of as property, at the inception of the nation and Before the Mayflower, In the modern work environment, Black Americans are last hired and first fired, dismissed, under-compensated and discriminated against on the basis of race and gender. And then they spend most of their being fighting to be respected as a person in the sight of someone or a system who reduces our being in every generation to a thing.
The protest is not directed at anyone’s life out of retaliation, the destruction of property is directed at the “thingness that equates and prioritizes property over being.” Property is not being and that is why it burns. When property is looted and burned, it sends a message about American confusion and fake news. It is the acknowledgment that God is responsible for being, and the arsonist and the looter, however wrong and illegal their unsupported actions are, is getting our attention. Corporate being is fake news and not of God. The police are no longer “serving and protecting” the citizenry! The police protect and preserve property over being and case after case the police are willing to destroy our being over the business communities and the political classes property interests, ultimately their stock market interests.
Even with all of this pain, there were some curious moments over the last week that represented the birth of a new spirit in America in the making, and in my mind, they are worthy of note. Viktor E. Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Dr. King said, “if one can find a core of non-violence toward persons, even during the riots when emotions were exploding, it means that non-violence should not be written off for the future as a force in the Negro life.” Among many acts since the death of George Floyd, I want to highlight just five of them.
1 The Spirit of black mothers while always present was elevated to global recognition. George Floyd did this. He did what no leader since Brown vs. the Bd. of Education could do. There are consequences today for ignoring black mothers in a major political party and the party’s nominee knows of the consequences.
2 The Amish fighting for George Floyd. I am curious to know if Minnesota authorities had any idea that George Floyd had Amish friends and friends from the Mennonite community. Did the Minneapolis Police Department know that he had such broad and global relationships?
3 Black men defending a cop. I read a curious article about African American men forming a human chain around a police officer and not allowing any harm to come to that officer. for surely they recognized his humanity and the ramification of violent harm, coming to that officer, the retaliatory response could fill hundreds of cemeteries across our country. Every black man in America owes those men a debt of gratitude.
4 It is impossible to ignore the Multicultural and multi-generational dynamics of the domestic and global protests. If it were not for George, the protests would be local and it would only be local news as it always has been. If the protests were all black people, and for only black people, under this administration, today we would be looking at a very different dynamic. This administration is aware of this dynamic and seeks to instill fear in the generation of white Americans who understand and whose ancestors survived European Fascism. Not every white protester is Antifa, not every black is nonviolent, the majority of the protesters are non-violent, law-abiding, outraged and fed up Americans and this protest is our right, and therefore the administration’s military response is an overreaction. The military should take a knee and those who do Joe Biden should pardon and restore them upon his inauguration.
5 It was curious to me that a Blackman couldn’t watch birds in Central Park and have the police called on him for no reason and, White women in one protest would form a line protecting black protestors, male and female, daring the police to come through them and therefore like Viktor Frankl, creating a necessary momentary pause.
George Floyds Spirit Called Out, “MOMMA” he gave up the ghost, and his Spirit went up to the Mother of the Universe…..
Mr. Floyd’s spirit is now our spirit and it is vibrating around the world. Now that it has awakened us, I pray won’t go back to sleep again.
I want to thank George Floyd for his mindfulness and his law-abiding behavior and most importantly for his last breath. Thanks to God and all of our mothers for resuscitating us, for giving us life that no one has the right to take, for healing our broken spirits, and thanks be to God for the natural right to breathe.