The Rev. Al Sharpton, whose phrase, "Take your knee off our necks," became a national rallying cry for black Americans after he uttered those words at the Minneapolis memorial for George Floyd earlier this week, returned to the pulpit on Tuesday to give a powerful eulogy at Floyd's funeral in Houston.
Over the course of roughly 40 minutes, Sharpton called for the four white Minneapolis policemen who took Floyd's life to be brought to justice (“Because lives like George’s will not matter until somebody pays the cost for taking their lives"), criticized Donald Trump ("“When some kids wrongly start violence that this family doesn’t condone, the president talks about bringing in the military. But he’s not said one word about eight minutes and 46 seconds of police murder of George Floyd.”) and even called out the NFL for its treatment of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “Don’t apologize — give Colin Kaepernick a job back,” Sharpton said, referring to the former 49er who has been out of football since taking a knee in protest during the pre-game playing of the national anthem. “We don’t want an apology. We want him repaired.”
But perhaps the most moving moment of the eulogy, and the one that brought all of the approximately 500 mourners in the Fountain of Praise church to their feet, was when Sharpton singled out several individuals and asked them to be recognized. Each shared a burden with the family of the man being buried on this day, Sharpton said, explaining, “they wanted to be here to be part of this because they understand the pain better than anyone, because they’ve gone through the pain.”
“The mother of Trayvon Martin, will you stand,” Sharpton said.
“The mother of Eric Garner, will you stand?"
"The sister of Botham Jean, will you stand?"
"The family of Pamela Turner, right here in Houston, will you stand?"
"The father of Michael Brown from Ferguson, Mo., will you stand?"
"The father of Ahmaud Arbery, will you stand?"
As the clapping grew in intensity, Sharpton added, “All of these families came to stand with this family because they know better than anyone else the pain they will suffer from the loss that they have gone through."
The funeral aired live on broadcast and cable television, and as it began at noon, the New York Stock Exchange went silent for eight minutes, 46 seconds — the length of time a Minneapolis police officer held Mr. Floyd’s neck under his knee before he died. According to The New York Times, it was the longest moment of silence on the stock exchange floor in its 228-year history.
The service featured remarks by the former vice president Joe Biden, Rep. Al Green of Texas, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Ne-Yo performed a rendition of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by Boyz II Men.
In Biden's speech, he directly addressed Floyd's 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, and called on Americans to put themselves in her position and question why racial injustice exists.
"Looking through your eyes, we should also be asking ourselves why the answer is so often too cruel and painful," the presumptive Democratic nominee for president said. "Why, in this nation, do too many black Americans wake up knowing that they could lose their life in the course of just living their life? Why does justice not roll like a river or righteousness like a mighty stream? Why? Ladies and gentlemen, we can't turn away. We must not turn away. We cannot leave this moment thinking, we can once again turn away from racism."
After the service, Floyd's body was escorted by the Houston Police Department into Houston Memorial Gardens in Parkland, where Floyd was to be laid to rest next to his mother. As a white horse-drawn carriage carried his casket for about a mile to the cemetery, dozens of people lined up in the hot Houston sun to watch the funeral procession pass by and, as it did so, they yelled out “Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd!”