Engwin Williams, 10, awaits the passing of George Floyd's casket in Houston on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
June 11, 2020 6:59 AM EDT

After Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012, Brooklyn-based photographer Ruddy Roye started to think differently about his work. “I told myself the work I pursue personally would be about educating my sons,” says Roye, 50. “My reason for being out here is to capture different scenarios to share with them that they’re second-class citizens. Their rights do not come as normal and natural as the rest of America — that there are different rules for black people.”

Roye has documented stories of black struggle and resilience for TIME, including in the aftermath of the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by police officers in the same week in July 2016, but the time he spent in Houston for the funeral of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, was “one of the most emotionally draining” photo shoots he’s ever done.

People waiting for the public viewing at The Fountain of Praise church on June 8. “There was an eagerness, an urgency among the crowd, to say goodbye, to pay their respects, to the face of the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality,” Roye says.
Ruddy Roye for TIME

Roye shadowed the family from June 7 to June 9, and he had the opportunity to speak with Floyd’s son, Quincy Mason, about finding the strength to move forward. “I put my hand on his chest and [said], “Just breathe and understand that this is your father,’” Roye says. “I was seeing on TV all that power and all that energy that’s been generated by the moment where these family members are in the background. We, the people who are not intimately attached to the family, we see a revolution. We find solidarity and empathy with the family, but to us it’s a movement. To them, it’s their family member. They’re overwhelmed. They were crying. They were in pain. So I had to walk that line of recording history and empathy. When I was with the family, I couldn’t be a part of the movement. I had to be in the lane of empathy and strength for the family, and when I wasn’t with the family, I could photograph like I was documenting history.

“I was in the front seat, watching a family that had been catapulted onto an international platform quickly, watching them rise to the occasion on so many levels, and be an example for, tragically, the next family that might have their family members killed, taken away from them. In every choice they made, they are effecting change.”

Roye, whose own sons are now 11 and 15, found hope in all the mourners who came out to the public viewing of Floyd’s body on June 8 and en route to the cemetery on June 9, especially in a 10-year-old boy Engwin Williams. The light shining through his yellow poster of George Floyd’s face with the words “I can’t breathe” caught Roye’s eye. “I asked him why he came out today, and he said, ‘To show George that we’re with him,'” Roye said.

With reporting by Olivia B. Waxman

The Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump speaks at a candlelight vigil honoring George Floyd at Jack Yates High School in Houston, June 8.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Attendees at a candlelight vigil honoring George Floyd at Jack Yates High School in Houston on June 8.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, left, D-Texas, joins the Floyd family, family attorney Ben Crump to speak to reporter after a candlelight vigil honoring George Floyd at Jack Yates High School in Houston on June 8.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
“Justice for George would be that the police officers who tortured him to death be held fully accountable to the full extent of the law,” the family’s lawyer, Ben Crump told Roye on June 7, at a Houston hotel, while waiting for Floyd’s extended family to arrive.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Brothers Rodney and Philonise Floyd visit a memorial and mural that honors their brother George with lawyer, Ben Crump in Houston's Third Ward where Mr. Floyd grew up, on June 8.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Quincy Mason and his family pose for a photo before the funeral on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
George Floyd's brothers Rodney (right) and Philonise (left) prepare for the funeral with lawyer Ben Crump (center) on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Rev. Al Sharpton takes a photograph with Sybrina Fulton and Pastor Jamal H Bryant before George Floyd's funeral on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Family members congregate before George Floyd's funeral on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Supporters line up to see George Floyd's funeral procession on Jun 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
A program at the funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Rev. Al Sharpton with George Floyd's family at the funeral service in Houston on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Amalie Mason at emotional moment during the tribute to George Floyd. Family and guests attended the funeral service at The Fountain of Praise Church in Houston on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Pallbearers transport George Floyd's casket at The Fountain of Praise Church on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
The family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, far left; Floyd’s son Quincy Mason, second from right, with his daughter in front of him; and the Rev. Al Sharpton, right, waiting for the private funeral on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
A horse-drawn carriage brought Floyd’s body into the cemetery on June 9. “It felt like a state funeral,” Roye said. “It felt like they were sending him off with the newfound persona that he had been catapulted into, and this was one of the ways to honor what he became. It felt right.”
Ruddy Roye for TIME
A woman salutes George Floyd’s funeral procession as it passes on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Onlookers document the passing of George Floyd’s funeral procession on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME
A woman takes a knee as George Floyd’s funeral procession turns into the cemetery in Houston on June 9. "People were chanting George Floyd's name and 'no justice, no peace!'"
Ruddy Roye for TIME
Rev. Al Sharpton, speaks at the private funeral service for George Floyd on June 9.
Ruddy Roye for TIME

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