Ne-Yo performed an emotional rendition of Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” at George Floyd’s memorial service on Tuesday, struggling at times to get through the song as he sang through tears.
The R&B performer took the stage to perform the heartfelt farewell song a cappella for the crowd at the final memorial service for the late Minneapolis man, whose death after being pinned down at the neck by police officer Derek Chauvin has sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the word.
When he got choked up mid-chorus — pausing to drop his head and clear his throat in the midst of “I thought we’d get to see forever, but forever’s gone away / It’s so hard to say good bye to yesterday” — the crowd clapped and cheered until he was able to continue.
The singer did face some backlash, however, for his comments during the service, in which he referred to Floyd’s death as a “sacrifice.”
“Fifty states are protesting at the same time, this man changed the world,” he said. “I just want to thank George Floyd for the sacrifice so my kids can be all right. I appreciate the sacrifice, I really do.”
The last in a series of memorial services for the 46-year-old took place at the Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas, after which Floyd was laid to rest in Pearland, next to his beloved mother.
The memorial featured speeches by Floyd’s friends and family members, as well as a prerecorded video message from Joe Biden. The Democratic presidential nominee met privately with Floyd’s family one day prior.
“As I’ve said to you privately, we know. We know you will never feel the same again,” he said. “Unlike most, you must grieve in public, and it’s a burden. A burden that is now your purpose to change the world for the better, in the name of George Floyd.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t turn away. We must not turn away … America can do better. America has no choice but to do better,” he continued. “We can heal this nation’s wounds. Today, now, is the time. The purpose, the season, to listen and heal.”
Rev. Al Sharpton closed the service by delivering a powerful eulogy, asking the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, fathers of Michael Brown and Ahmaud Arbery, sister of Botham Jean, and the family of Pamela Turner, who were all in attendance, to stand with Floyd’s family, as “they know better than anyone else the pain they will suffer.”
“I want to give honor to the family and a commitment. When the last TV truck is gone, we’ll still be here,” he promised. “We must commit to this family that until these people pay for what they did, that we’re going to be with them, because lives like George’s will not matter until someone pays the cost for taking their lives.”
“Your family is going to miss you, George, but your nation is always going to remember your name,” he added. “We’re going to fight on.”