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R&B superstar singer-songwriter and World of Dance judge Ne-Yo broke down twice while struggling through an a cappella rendition of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” at George Floyd’s funeral service, held Tuesday at the Fountain of Praise Church in Floyd’s hometown of Houston. But while Ne-Yo clearly sang from the heart, remarks he made before his performance generated swift backlash online.
“Fifty states are protesting at the same time. This man changed the world — changed the world for the better. So, I just want to personally thank George Floyd for his sacrifice, so that my kids can be all right later on. I appreciate the sacrifice, my brother, I genuinely do,” the father of four declared, referring to how the shocking May 25 death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, after white Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparked national protests against police brutality and national conversations about systemic racism.
“It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” originally by G.C. Cameron, has become a go-to anthem of sorts in a year of mourning: Boyz II Men, who had a hit with it in 1991, performed the ballad with Alicia Keys during the opening of the 2020 Grammy Awards ceremony in tribute to Kobe Bryant, who had died in a helicopter crash that day. At Floyd’s memorial service, applause broke out the moment Ne-Yo began singing the song; this no doubt encouraged him to keep going. “God bless,” Ne-Yo said softly as he left the stage after he finished.
If Ne-Yo did not bring tears 2 your eyes🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩 u have an ice box where ur heart should be.. pic.twitter.com/tTVXuJrjyy
— Didah 🖤💚❤️ (@didah_learto) June 9, 2020
Ne-Yo singing “How do I say goodbye...” Acapella & Emotional. #GeorgeFloydFuneral
— Maya Wiley (@mayawiley) June 9, 2020
My momma: I think he could have done better.
GIRL THIS MAN WAS CRYING
— TB (@TevonBlair) June 9, 2020
Watching the celebration of George Floyd's life with tears streaming down my face after that performance by Ne-Yo. That was real.
— Robyn Harney (@IAmRobynNicole) June 9, 2020
But while many fans watching the live stream of the service were moved by Ne-Yo’s performance, many others took issue with his comments about Floyd’s “sacrifice,” criticizing the statement as inappropriate and tone-deaf, or at least poorly worded.
— Carla Wants Poetic Justice (@Carla32189368) June 9, 2020
Ne-Yo: “I want to thank George Floyd for his sacrifice...”
Sick.... So Sick of hearing y’all embarrass yourselves in these speeches. pic.twitter.com/ZzUCXgoVfT
— m • ✊🏾 (@FKAStark) June 9, 2020
I just saw why ne-yo was trending. Smh murder is not a sacrifice pic.twitter.com/DhMfI2zrVp
— avy aveesss (@Avia_Ashley) June 9, 2020
This may have been my actual face when I read what Ne-Yo said... pic.twitter.com/hEaCBcRMYD
— NotYetAMom (@NotYetAMom1) June 9, 2020
Neyo just thanked George Floyd for his sacrifice so his kids can be alright...🧐
I want y’all to stick with your talents and shut up about everything else.
— Shelone (@KkHotCommodity) June 9, 2020
In my opinion & in his defense, I think he meant that #georgefloyd ‘s death will not be in vain. We need people who have leverage to be present and to speak up in times like these. I do agree with you though; Sometimes we don’t do the best job communicating what we really mean.
— Ceddy B (@_cedricblossom) June 9, 2020
Sacrifice was the wrong word to use but that wasn’t what he was trying to say and he actually said that before he started singing https://t.co/tyk8BPkbIW
— Cherry Pop, Esq. (@prtygrlgonebad) June 9, 2020
Other notable participants in Tuesday’s service included the Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy, and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who in a prerecorded video testimonial proclaimed, “When there’s justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America.” The service was also attended by actors Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, football players J.J. Watt and D.J. Reader, gospel singer Kim Burrell, soul singer Al B. Sure, and Houston rappers Slim Thug, Paul Wall and Trae Tha Truth.
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