"The measure of life is not what life accomplishes, but rather the impact that life has on others" —Jackie Robinson
True meaning of 'legacy'
Oprah once recalled a chat she shared with her mentor, Dr. Maya Angelou. "I remember when I opened my school in South Africa," recalls Winfrey, "and I said to Maya Angelou, ‘Gee this will be my legacy!’ "
Angelou — sensing the chance to seize the teachable moment — replied:
You have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is what you do everyday. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not.
Though the world knows him as the martyred George Floyd, I only knew Perry or "Big Floyd." Quite simply, in my youth I looked up to the older Perry . . . both literally and figuratively. After all, he stood 6-foot-7 — chiseled in brown statuesque skin, from head to toe, as if he were some hero plucked from Greek mythology.
As for how Big Floyd proved to be a rainbow in my cloud, quite simply: he took a special liking to me. And when you grow up as I did, an only child in Third Ward, short of winning the lottery — nothing beats being liked by "Mufasa."
Big Floyd, however, was no bully. No, no. Big Floyd was a gentle giant — every bit as physically imposing as Green Mile's John Coffey, yet every bit as warm-hearted, too.
And that served me well.
Of all the "project babies" in the Cuney Homes, I was the only one that "lucked up" and got awarded a transfer. Each morning, a yellow bus would swoop in and haul me off. From the second grade onward, I was primarily educated with white children, in the "rich part of town."
Upon returning home from school, of course, I found myself confronted by that green-eyed monster. Jealousy. The boys in the hood resented me. Why should they have to attend the rundown schools in the ghetto, while I didn’t, they demanded to know. But due to grace, Big Floyd in some sense shielded me.
"Let Leo talk proper if that's how he wanna talk!" Perry would bark at anyone who dared tried to tease me.
Had it not been for Big Floyd's serving as a rainbow in my cloud, heck, who knows if I ever would've reached this point. Who knows. ...
Monday morning, on the eve of the first anniversary of his passing, my manager shared with me some wonderful news. Professor Richard Dawkins, the greatest biologist since Charles Darwin, expressed a liking for my work, in biology.
Tears welled up in my eyes. I thought of Big Floyd!
Though Big Floyd's no longer in the physical, his legacy forever lives on in every life he's touched.
Among my childhood heroes was Professor Howard Gardner. His theory of multiple intelligences left a lasting impression on me. After all, his radical view that intelligence or genius is expressable in multiple forms planted the seed for my belief in polymathy.
Today, Professor Gardner embraces my radical Psychological Code. Again, Big Floyd's legacy lives on in every life he's touched.
Every saint has a past & every sinner has a future
Big Floyd, you see, was a rose that grew from concrete. Sure, he had his "troubles," most of which stemmed from the harsh conditions of growing up in the Cuney Homes. But before he left the flesh, Perry was already humming Bob Marley's Redemption Song.
“I’ve got my shortcomings and my flaws and I ain’t better than nobody else,” Big Floyd once preached to a group of troubled youth. “But, man, the shootings that’s going on . . . I don’t care what ’hood you’re from, where you’re at, man. I love you and God loves you. Put them guns down!”
Perhaps, at times, we forget Saul persecuted Christians, only to have fallen off his horse and then rose up as Saint Paul. He then wrote most of the New Testament. Indeed, every saint dates the Dark before finally marrying the Light. Perry was no different.
Big Floyd's legacy lives on in every life he's touched. ...
On Sunday, Third Ward unveiled the "George Floyd Park." His legacy lives on. Even while strolling down the street here in Manhattan, I occasionally glimpse t-shirts bearing his image. I glimpse COVID masks with "I Can't Breathe" scrawled across the front.
I whisper to myself, "Big Floyd's legacy lives on."
From the sidewalks of the concrete jungle to the White House lawn, Big Floyd's legacy lives on. President Biden has worked tirelessly to pass a major police reform bill. The president urged lawmakers, last month, to "get it done next month, by the first anniversary of George Floyd's death."
An official from the White House noted:
The president has spoken repeatedly to how meaningful his relationship with the Floyd family is to him, and on the first anniversary of George Floyd's passing it is important to him to hear from them about their perspective on this moment in our history and the progress that must be made in order to stop the agonizing trend of people of color being killed at the hands of law enforcement and to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Big Floyd is now a martyr, an iconic figure fated to forever be mentioned in the same breath as Malcolm X and Emmett Till. In his death, hope for justice and equality lives. And just as he was larger than life while alive, his legacy has grown even larger in death.
Big Floyd's legacy is every life he's touched. And because he touched my life, and countless others, his legacy lives on.