Born with a Mission – Southside Pride

BY ELAINE CLASSES

Steve Floyd

Steve Floyd is a man with a heart for others.
He has raised four children – the fifth is still under his care; he empowers dozens of other youth through the agape movement and through his work as a mental health consultant at Change, Inc.; he takes award-winning photographs; he practices healthy living to support his transplanted kidney; he travels around the world; and he has connected with thousands through his love of basketball. There are so many areas he tends towards. His life is complex but not complicated. He exudes a rare serenity.
As a co-founder of the agape movement that began in the 1980’s, Floyd has spent the last 40+ years bringing love, safety, inspiration and opportunity to the community, especially for ex-gang members who are finding new ways in their lives .
Currently, Floyd dates agape members almost every night as they create a peaceful presence on the streets. There are always situations where you can de-escalate. Agape also offers its nonviolent presence in the schools, replacing the armed police that patrolled the halls until June 2020, when the MPS board voted to terminate its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department.
Floyd, who has been to Africa many times, organizes trips for young black men to visit Senegal in West Africa as part of Agape’s Rite of Passage program. Her last trip was last October and November. Floyd takes them to see the shores from which captive Africans were shipped to North America. He knows how black culture was destroyed. His compassion for himself and those who share his story leads him to work toward healing.
Steve Floyd was born and raised in south Chicago. His 17-year-old mother struggled, had no one to lean on, was abusive. His father drank heavily, went to Vietnam, was decorated for bravery, reacted violently when called the N-word (he used a gun to destroy property) and spent nine years in prison for it.
Steve grew up with three sisters and five younger brothers. Since her father “wasn’t around enough to give six young men the guidance, love, and care they needed,” Steve took over as the eldest. He became the man in his brothers’ lives. His brothers were all “in groups the equivalent of gangs, but they didn’t call themselves that.” They were basically neighborhoods fighting other neighborhoods. Now, many years later, everyone has recovered.
Growing up, Steve always envied his friends who went home for dinner because their dads were there. He had no father to go home to. One of the themes I’ve heard from Floyd several times is that he wants to give his kids and other kids everything he didn’t have.

Steve Floyd

As a kid, Steve lived for basketball. just loved it. He loved the game so much that he came up with the idea of ​​building a basketball court by burning down the family’s garage, which was in ruins and unused anyway. No one was hurt and once the debris was cleared his mother wondered what to do with all that space. Steve innocently suggested, “Maybe we could build a basketball court.” Years later it came out who was responsible for the fire, but there was water under the bridge.
In his junior year of high school, Steve was dropped from the basketball team, a political decision. He was so desperate that he dropped out of school – on a Monday. That Friday he got into an altercation and “a bullet grazed my temple.” It scared him enough to start praying, and the next Sunday he went to church, all of which was new to him because his family didn’t go to church.
The next day Steve went back to school. One day he was accepted back into the team.
He was invited to attend a church camp where he thought there would be basketball, but it was all religious. He didn’t behave very well in camp, but then he started thinking about sin. He had stolen food stamps from his mother (although he had used them to buy food for the people in the park), he had set the garage on fire, and he was fighting all the time. At the camp he had stolen T-shirts and tried to let the horses out. His soul searching led him to the conclusion that he didn’t like the church for using fear to control people, but he did like Jesus. He decided to change and follow the teachings of Jesus.
Floyd attended college at the Assemblies of God North Central Bible Institute in Minneapolis (now North Central University), where he majored in theology and played basketball. He was an all-American at basketball, and after graduating he stayed on for two more years to coach the sport.
Steve didn’t like the business aspect of the Church, the corporate ladder. He was more interested in basketball – and in helping people.
While in college, he was inspired by country preacher David Wilkerson, whose book and later film adaptation, The Cross and the Switchblade, chronicled Wilkerson’s calling to go to New York City and bring love and hope to gang members there. Floyd was on his way to Detroit to do similar work when Park Avenue United Methodist Pastor Art Erickson invited him to work with youth in the neighborhood.
Just as he was starting out as a youth leader, Floyd’s father, who never recovered from Vietnam, was bludgeoned to death in Chicago, a murder that has never been solved.
From then on, Floyd has dedicated his considerable energy to nurturing young people who might otherwise not have a chance. All the troubles and tragedies of his youth turned into a compassionate mentality.
On Park Avenue, he saw many of the kids “drifting toward gang membership,” and he wanted to get them out of their four- to eight-block neighborhood, so he took them camping in Mexico, to Washington, DC, and finally to Africa. He wanted to show them other options. From study trips to Europe, he knew how much travel can change one’s worldview.
Floyd saw many needs to which he responded. He began giving lectures on unconditional love (agape) in schools, telling funny stories about each ethnic group, poking fun at the stereotypes, and then talking about everyone coming together to appreciate one another. He presented a vision. “Children ran away crying. It hit and challenged them where they were. Hundreds marched in agape marches,” he said. Now in 2022, gatherings have slowed down due to COVID. In 1987 he founded a basketball league called Youth in the City, followed in 1990 by another league that included other sports besides basketball: STREETS (Striving for Excellence in Education through Sport).
When the Disciples gang executed 16-year-old Christine Kreitz in 1985, who they thought had “betrayed” her, Steve spoke on TV and radio. He explained that gangs formed because children needed support and protection that they didn’t get from adults throughout their lives.
Because of Floyd’s close ties to gangs, he was under investigation by the FBI.
He joined The City Inc. where he founded Champions of Agape, where gang members from all different gangs worked together on life skills, camped, took trips and built relationships. This valuable work was interrupted in 1992 when police officer Jerry Haaf was murdered by the Vice Lords gang.
From 1995 to 1998, the homicide rate rose; there were three to four homicides a week. Prosecutor Amy Klobuchar hired Steve to be an attorney for victims of gang violence and murder because he had credibility with all gangs.
He would receive calls to show up while the police were putting up the yellow cordon tape. His role was to calm people down and wait for family to arrive.
“It allowed me to understand the pain of mothers, the experience of giving birth. It would be quiet and you knew Mother was coming. The cry would be the same as the birth cry. The hardest part was hearing the mother. I understood her pain. She had to go to her baby.”
He went through funerals and trials until one day he couldn’t stop crying. He fell into a deep depression and his colleagues encouraged him to take some time off. After this breakdown, he traveled a lot more and began his passion for photography. He must get away from “dealing with so many murders”.
Over the years he developed a deep connection to Africa and in 2017 considered moving there. When he first saw the slave houses in Senegal, it “changed his decisions about Christianity. Christians promoted slavery; They used the Bible and scriptures for control.” Moving away from organized Christianity, he focused on “the rhythm of the universe, animals and plants, and Jesus, his belief in and service to mankind.” Floyd says, “Agape in action, that’s my religion.”

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