By TENZIN SHAKYA, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — For many around the world, George Floyd has become the newest martyr in the plight to save future black men from dying at the hands of police brutality. Many are now demanding the creation of an anti-racist criminal justice system focused on community safety over policing.
Floyd’s death has already sparked change within a few weeks. Federal legislation has been introduced to reform police tactics, while New York City and Los Angeles have committed to divert funds from police to community programs. Some cities have started removing Confederate relics and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for Confederate statues to be taken down in the Capitol.
But before his death, before the protests and before the steps toward change, Theresa Scott and Alvin Manago knew and loved Floyd as their chosen family and roommate.
Scott and her fiance, Manago, lived with Floyd in the house they were renting together in Minneapolis.
“You know, he call her Tee, Tee, he call me Al, Al,” Manago said.
“I was like a big sister to him because he’s younger than me,” Scott said. “We cried together. We prayed together, you know, we had a good relationship.”
Floyd moved to Minneapolis from Houston’s Third Ward for a fresh start after serving time for aggravated robbery. There, he started a second life as a free man working two jobs, paying rent on time and just living.
Manago had worked security with Floyd at the Conga Latin Bistro before COVID-19 forced everyone to be homebound.
The couple knew he had a troubled past, but were moved by Floyd’s dedication to a better tomorrow, and a new walk in his journey of faith.
Scott said, “That was his second chance to make a better, you know, make a better life for himself when he came here and he was, he was heading that way.”
Manago said Floyd often talked about wanting to fly his youngest daughter, Gianna, to live with him in his new home.
“He did things successfully in order for him to be a better person and able to provide for his family and his, you know, his kids,” Manago said.
Manago recalled the moment Floyd earned his learner’s permit to drive commercial trucks and wanted to plan a trip to see his family in Houston.
“He was so proud and happy that he got his CDL,” Manago said. “I’m gonna be able to go see my daughter and my children.”
The only other time he had witnessed Floyd so ecstatic was when his former NBA friend, Stephen Jackson, sent him a box full of clothing and shoes, according to Manago.
“He like, ‘Man, my friend Stephen sent me this.’ And it was like watching a little kid open up a present on Christmas,” Manago said. “He wasn’t materialistic at all. In his room, all you see, we’re his jogging suits and, you know, gym shoes and the Bible.”
The Bible, with a simple blue and gold binding, held multiple bright yellow Post-it Notes acting as place holders to some of Floyd’s favorite prayers. Scott now clings onto those very pages as she grieves in her brother Floyd’s memory.
“Me and Floyd, we used to grab hands, we will bow our head and we will close our eyes and we will say the Lord’s Prayer,” Scott said. “That prayer covers your whole day; it covers your whole day because you’ve forgiven your debts like the people that do you wrong. You forgiven him. You know you forgiven them.”
Forgiveness, however, is not something Manago is ready to discuss when it comes to his friend’s death. He’s still grappling with the 8 minute and 46 second video of Floyd saying, “I cannot breath.”
“It’s just so, so unfair, so unfair that they’re out here and they’re able to have a breath and a life and and his life is gone,” Manago said.
The couple said what happened to Floyd is something he feared.
“He always will say, ‘Man, T … I don’t mess with the police.’ He said, ‘I do whatever they want me to do, he said, because they looking to kill a big brother like me,'” Scott said as she wiped away tears. “And He was right. And they did. They did.”
Reform is coming to the Minneapolis Police Department. The four former officers involved have been charged and will face justice — a chance Manago wished Floyd had received.
“I just want him to have some justice. And he had to give his life for every [one of] us to have justice in a different way,” Manago said. “He never got his chance. You know, he did the right thing and made his life better, he cared about people, and he didn’t get his chance. “
The couple said what they’ll miss most about their chosen brother is the simple, mundane lifestyle the three of them shared in their home.
“He just was like a homebody,” Manago said. “You could tell he just felt so relaxed and that’s all he wanted — to make it through a day and be able to come home and appreciate life. And that’s what he did.”
Scott said she’s having a hard time understanding what has happened in the last few weeks. She’s still in disbelief that he’s gone.
“I’ll be at home now and I’ll be sitting downstairs just waiting for him to come through that door. … He’ll come through the door and he be like, ‘You OK, T? You all right?’ I’d be like, “Yeah, Floyd, you OK?’ He’d be like, ‘Yeah, OK,” Scott said.
“I’m just all the time waiting for him to come through that door,” she added. “Now, it’s like I sit downstairs and I don’t see my brother coming through that door no more, you know, and it hurts so bad. It hurts really bad.”
Scott clings to the last memory she has of Floyd.
“Last time I seen my brother, we prayed for a long time,” she said. “I had cooked a big dinner and I took him up a plate and he was like, ‘T, I’m getting ready to go.’ I said, ‘You getting ready to go?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Well, come on, let’s pray.’ And we prayed for a long time that day before he left.”
Floyd was laid to rest in his hometown of Houston. A new mural honoring Floyd is now on display in the Third Ward where he grew up and another one in Minneapolis at the location of his passing.
Manago and Scott decided to stay put in George’s second home where they say their prayers reading from Floyd’s Bible.
“I want everybody to remember, remember him as the gentle giant.” Scott added. “Because that’s what everybody know, that he was the gentle giant.”
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