The night before he died, George Floyd was laughing, joking and telling friends how good life in Minneapolis was for a black man.
Sixteen hours later, he was killed in an incident with a police officer.
In 2014, Floyd’s close friend, Christopher Harris, moved to Minnesota. They were buddies since first meeting in sixth grade. Harris spoke daily to his friend about how life was better for black men in Minneapolis than Houston. “I said it was a great place,” he remembers. “I told him there wasn’t as much racial stereotyping as there was down South. He told me, ‘Bro, I’m coming.’”
Floyd moved to Minneapolis in 2017, and Harris saw his friend almost every day. After he got off work on Monday, May 25 around 12:30 a.m., Harris dropped by a mutual friend’s house where Floyd was laughing and playing cards.
Because of the stay-at-home orders, the nightclub where Floyd was working as a bouncer laid him off. Floyd was talking about buying his own truck and re-instating his commercial driver’s license. But, in the meantime, Harris knew his friend needed work – and that morning he told him about a temp agency that was hiring.
Despite being unemployed, Harris says, his friend had an upbeat, optimistic attitude. The two spoke that morning about how good their lives were -- much better than life in Houston.
“Have you ever seen the movie Ray -- the movie where Jamie Foxx plays Ray Charles?” Harris says. “There’s a part in that movie where he says, ‘This is where the black man comes to spread his wings.’ And that’s what me and him talked about. This is what we joked about. This is where the black man comes to spread his wings. We could come stretch out. We could be ourselves.”
Harris remembers hugging his friend goodbye and saying, “Love you, bitch.”
About 24 hours later, Harris says his stepson showed him a video of an officer kneeling on a black man’s neck. Harris didn’t look at it very closely; he didn’t zoom in to see the man’s face, he says, because the video was so hard to watch.
“I just couldn’t stomach it. I didn’t want to look at it,” he remembers. “So I glanced at it and gave it back to him and said, ‘Somebody going to be in trouble,’ and walked off.”
A few hours later, he learned that the man in the video was his close friend.
“Little did I know that I was watching my brother, my childhood friend, get killed,” Harris says. “A guy who came up here, because I told him how good it was up here.”
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He will miss his friend’s smile, his kindness and his giving nature.
“If something was to happen to somebody, you’d never think it would happen to him because he was always doing good,” Harris says. “It was in him to help people. Just to know I’ll never talk to my friend again this side of heaven -- it hurts.”
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
•Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
•ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
•National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.