Before George Floyd passed away and before his image was stretched out under the knee of a policeman in the turmoil in the United States, the man’s life witnessed successes and failures.
He lived happy moments during his teenage years in Houston, where he played American football at the Texas State Championship in 1992.
But he also had a prison sentence for years after being arrested in 2007 for theft.
Upon his death on May 25 in Minneapolis, he was 46 years old, and he was mostly like other Americans, looking for ways to improve his conditions and face social and personal challenges.
His death comes amid a health and economic catastrophe that saw the death of more than one hundred thousand Americans and left more than 40 million people without jobs, exacerbating the scourge that hit the United States this year.
Floyd grew up in Houston, Texas, in the “Third Ward” neighborhood, which is the heart of the African-American community south of downtown.
There the singer Beyonce grew up, the region known for her musical activity. Floyd is also believed to have participated in the rap scene in the 1990s in Houston.
But the city, which Floyd recently left, has a history of racism and the absence of economic equality like any city in the United States.
Donnie Lillard, George Floyd’s friend in the neighborhood and a rapper known as “Reconsail”, said that those who accompany them from outside the neighborhood are shocked by the poverty scene.
He added: “People still live in shacks erected in the twenties, poverty pervades everyone … it is difficult to escape from this area.”
Floyd possessed sports talents, and he was more than six feet tall as he was still a teenager. Those who knew him during his adolescence described him as the “cute giant”.
He excelled in two games, basketball and American football.
“I was astonished, he was twelve years old and six feet tall, I had never seen a person with this tall,” Jonathan Phil, a childhood friend and former Floyd fellow on the team, told local media.
He wore No. 88 on the John Yates High School high school football team, and was later chosen to play basketball at the University of South Florida, where he studied from 1993 to 1995, according to CNN.
His life took a different turn, as he was arrested more than once due to theft and possession of drugs. Matters reached a climax in 2007 when he was convicted of a robbery at gunpoint and imprisoned for five years.
After his release, Lillard said, he was intending to make changes for him and his neighborhood: “While he was trying to change his life, he was caring for others in his community.
A video clip of Floyd renouncing armed violence was circulated in 2017 and calls on young people to return to their homes.
The Floyd family told the newspaper “Hyosat Chronicle” that Floyd moved to Minnesota in 2018 after being encouraged by friends through the “Christian Work” project.
Christopher Harris, Floyd’s friend and classmate, said that he was looking forward to starting a new life and that he was “happy with the change he has made.”
Floyd worked as a truck driver and security guard at a charity and in a nightclub where he was known as “Big Floyd”.
Like many Americans, Floyd found himself in the midst of a collective business shutdown due to the Corona virus crisis.
Upon his arrest, he was allegedly trying to buy 20 dollars of counterfeit cigarettes.
His death fueled outrage across the United States with some of them being violent, more than 1,600 people arrested in dozens of cities, and National Guard forces deployed in 15 states.
Lillard, who described his friend as a “man of peace”, said Floyd would have supported the demands of people to change and listen to them, but he would not have accepted looting and violence.
He said that Floyd “had a heart bent on forgiveness, but he was one of the people too. He knew before his death about the harm they were exposed to.”
He added: “The matter has become bigger than George Floyd.” When you look at the protests, “you see the frustration that America feels about itself.