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How Houston’s Third Ward remembers “Big Floyd”

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — As thousands of Houstonians marched downtown in support of George Floyd, friends gathered in the nearby neighborhood where he was raised.

“It hurts, because this is our backyard. It hurts,” said Elaine Jones, who lives nearby with her three children. “So, now the world is watching us and what is our response going to be, you know? Are we going to break out in violence? No. This is our city. We don’t need to break out in violence, but we’re not going to be silent anymore.”

Floyd was raised in the Third Ward of Houston, about four miles from downtown.

He learned how to play basketball there before graduating from Jack Yates High School.

Now, he’s mourned in the neighborhood.

“What if it was my older brother, in the same predicament? I’m just so confused. I’m deeply sad and heartbroken. This world is complicated,” said Aanutica Tolbert, a Yates graduating senior. “I don’t understand to this day, but when I get older, I will understand.”

But, those who are older still don’t understand why Floyd is dead.

Sheila Masters used to live next door to Floyd’s family.

She said Floyd and his mother helped raise her own son over the years.

Floyd’s mother died two years ago, but she kept in touch with Floyd even after he moved to Minneapolis.

“They woke me up at 7:30 in the morning and said, ‘Ms. Sheila, Is this Floyd?’ I wiped my eyes and I looked and I said, ‘Oh my Lord what are they doing to him? What are they doing to him?’ Nobody deserves to die like that,’ she said. “That’s why I’m out here, because we are the older generation. We are the mama now.”

For those here, the loss is personal.

But, what they say is a pattern hurts even more.

“We can fight all we want, but if we don’t have a law to protect our sons, and brothers, and cousins, and our uncles, it’s going to continue on and on and on. But, it stops here with the death of Floyd. He’s speaking for us. He spoke up for us. No more,” Masters said.

“We’re not fighting for civil rights right now. We want our human rights. We want our human acknowledgement,” said Derek Kemp, one of Floyd’s childhood friends. “We have to really try hard. Instead of letting our anxieties and our anger get to us, and our hurt and pain get to us, let this be a time where we have the whole world staging support.”

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