George Floyd’s brother speaks at mural unveiling for rapper Pop Smoke

A mural unveiling of Pop Smoke on Monday in Canarsie was well attended by residents, friends, and local leaders.
Photo by Todd Maisel

George Floyd’s brother urged young Brooklynites to put a stop to gun violence during the unveiling of a 12-foot-tall mural of rapper Pop Smoke, who died in May after a targeted shooting.

“If you never hear it from anyone else, I love you. Put the guns down,” said Terrence Floyd, whose brother was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May. “Protecting your family is different than shooting your own people just to get a rep — it’s not cool.”

Dozens of locals, family members, and friends gathered for the ceremony on Monday to honor the 20-year-old Canarsie rapper, whose hit songs “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior” swept the nation, reaching the top five and one spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The rising star’s quick ascent was cut short in February, when a group of gunmen fatally shot him in his California rental home. Four teens were charged with the murder in July. 

Canarsie artist Kenny Altidor, 42, said locals urged him to erect a tribute for beloved rapper, who has become a source of pride for the Canarsie community.

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Terrence Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, urged attendees to put down their guns.Photo by Todd Maisel

“People here asked me to paint his mural. They loved the guy and so I’m just giving back to the community,” Altidor said in July. “My message in painting and paying tribute to him is a message of peace, love and unity among African-Americans.”

Altidor added that Pop Smoke’s mural — located on E. 80th Street and Flatlands Avenue beside a mural of George Floyd — serves to remind the community of the rapper’s death and to call for an end to gun violence.

“This mural was done to pay tribute to Pop Smoke, but at the same time to send a message to the community to stop the violence. We need to stop that, guys. Enough is enough. Black lives matter, like George’s brother says, we have to love each other, guys.”

During the memorial, Terrence Floyd played a video George Floyd sent him, where he decries the gun violence that claimed the life of his and Terrence’s nephew.

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Attendees of the mural unveiling wore shirts and jewelry in memory of Pop Smoke.Photo by Todd Maisel

“Your generation is clearly lost, man,” George is heard saying in the clip. “Y’all are just going around busting guns in crowds, kids getting killed … They’re so lost, man.” 

Famed civil rights lawyer Sanford Rubenstein said the memorial site for Pop Smoke and George Floyd could become an important center for people mourning gun and police violence citywide.

“George Floyd died as a result of police violence and here we have Pop Smoke who died of gun violence – so this will be a memorial corner for all of the people in this city,” Rubenstein said. “Each of us here must pledge ourselves to stop gun violence – too many lives being taken, especially a life like Pop Smoke.”

Monique Waterman of the non-profit East Flatbush Village for at-risk youth, offered her expertise to anyone who needs assistance with job searching or mental health.

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Monique Waterman spoke about bringing more resources to the community to stop the violence.Photo by Todd Maisel

“Given the proper education and opportunities we will have a community that will thrive, but we have an oppressive system,” Waterman said. “I’m not making excuses for our community members, but without the proper funds and resources, we will continually see gun violence.”

One man said he was proud to be at the mural unveiling. But he added, noticing about a dozen police officers and cruisers sat nearby, “I don’t really like being out in the open like this.”

Another young man, who didn’t want to be identified, said Pop Smoke was the reason so many people come to Canarsie and show respect. But he added that despite speakers’ calls to put down the guns, “it won’t stop, and it will keep going.”

“It’s sad, it just still not real. A lot of people are mad – we wanted more answers than they gave us,” said the man, who wore t-shirt with a picture of the rapper. “Is there a way to stop [the shootings]? The cops ain’t the way because they only make it worse because they don’t do their job and then disrespect us.”

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.

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Friends embraced during the mural dedication of Pop Smoke in Canarsie on Aug. 31.Photo by Todd Maisel