So goes the first few lines of Rihanna’s 2015 anthemic hit song American Oxygen.
Sitting heavy with the infuriating news about the recent string of murders of unarmed black people at the hands of police and wannabe law officers up and down the U.S. had me searching for temporary sonic relief. Thinking about which song to listen to in the middle of a slow-motion day filled with introspection was a much-needed distraction from a world that seems, once again, hell-bent on squeezing the life out of black bodies. It’s almost impossible to eschew the video of the sickeningly brutal death of 46-year-old George Floyd. I would rather the man known as “Big Floyd” rest in peace and not repeatedly suffer on an endless video loop on the “if it bleeds it leads” news stations.
But once again, another black man struggles to breathe in American oxygen, he pleads for breath, pleads for his life while handcuffed, facedown on the street with a cop's knee and full body weight precisely trained on his neck. Why can’t George Floyd have his share of American oxygen? George Floyd’s futile quest for breath forced me to become acutely aware of my own breath and how precious every breath we take is. American Oxygen, a song about America’s simultaneous potential and disillusionment as described by Billboard magazine’s Colin Stutz in his 4/9/2015 article about the song plays loud in my mind and on my desktop.
“We sweat for a nickel and a dime
Turn it into an empire
Breathe in, this feeling
American, American oxygen”
George Floyd was trying to attain the American Dream. He was trying to breathe in the hope that America offers some but so harshly denies others.
Speaking to MSNBC May 27, Rodney Floyd, George’s brother says he was “very loving” and “trusting”.
Christian rap artist, Corey Paul writes on Twitter, “I knew George Floyd personally. So the media can’t tell me nothing. When we did community outreach in the hood he was a person of peace.”
Breathe in, this feeling
American, American Oxygen
Oh say can you see, this is the American Dream”
According to his friends and family, George Floyd wanted that American Dream for others.
An artist who goes by the name Reconcile tweeted about his friend George Floyd: “The man that helped me drag a baptism pool to the court in the projects so we could baptize dudes in the hood. The man that helped put down and clean up chairs at outreaches in the hood. A man of peace! A good man.”
“Young boy, hustlin'
Tryna get the wheels in motion
But he can be anything at all
In America, America”
Several years ago, George Floyd moved from his native Houston, Texas to Minnesota to leave behind past run-ins with the law and start a new life and attain work. Like millions of Americans, the American Dream had to be put on hold when, according to lifelong friend Christopher Harris, Floyd was laid off from his job in a restaurant due to stay at home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, May 25, police were called about someone trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a local Minneapolis grocery store. Police ordered a man fitting the suspect’s description out of his car, newly released soundless footage from a restaurant security camera shows a cuffed George Floyd being escorted from his car to a nearby building wall. A few instances later witness camera phone recording shows Floyd still cuffed, searching, pleading for breath and life.
“I say, can't you see
Just close your eyes and breathe
Breathe out, breathe in
Every breath I breathe
Chasin' this American Dream…”
Whatever American dream George Floyd may have had slipped away in about 7 minutes as he tried to breathe out, breathe in. He even asked permission to partake in some of that American oxygen but was resoundingly denied his human right to exist by an officer of the law who for all intents and purposes acted as judge, jury and executioner.
55 years ago author James Baldwin said, “the American dream is at the expense of the American Negro.”
Can’t help but believe, the mounting senseless deaths of black bodies at the hands of law enforcement will be at the expense of all Americans if the killings continue. Something’s gotta give.
Mr. Floyd leaves behind two daughters.
Rosey Edeh spent a decade (2005-2015) bringing the latest entertainment and pop culture news to the masses as a senior reporter on Global TV’s ET Canada. Building on her vast experience as a news anchor and TV personality as seen on CNN, MSNBC and Global News, Rosey has founded an award-winning production company, Micha Muse Media Inc. Movies, plays, art exhibits, good books and all things track and field get this journalist, filmmaker and three-time Olympian excited for life. Human connection, struggle and triumph, maintain Rosey’s mission to tell meaningful and even entertaining stories that hopefully offer readers insight, depth and even a little levity. Twitter: @roseyedeh