we all must breathe

In watching events unfold over the past two weeks the image which constantly came to my mind was that of being able to breathe the air freely.

In Central Park, a white woman tried to prevent Christian Cooper from breathing the air and occupying the space, even though both belonged to him as much as they did to her.

In Minneapolis, George Floyd cried out "I can't breathe," just as Eric Garner did in Staten Island six years ago. In both cases the police ignore the cries and their ability to breathe was taken from them.

Finally, in the early days of the protests in Minneapolis, New York, Washington, and elsewhere, tear gas, pepper spray, and other means were used to prevent the protestors from being able to breathe freely with the hope that they would disperse. They did not. They have not. They will not. Until justice is acheived.

No justice. No peace. We must continue with the cry and remind everyone that until the lives of black people, all people of color, and all who have been denied there rights truly matter to everyone we will not have justice nor peace.

Shalom/Salaam/Pace/Peace to all,
Rabbi Steve
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we all must breathe

  • In memory of George Floyd, Eric Garner, and the countless other people of color whose breath was stolen from them

  • In honor of Christian Cooper whose ability to breathe freely was threatened

and in honor all those who have protested in spite of having the air taken from them by tear gas and other militaristic methods. And yet they still breathe. They still survive. They still fight to reclaim the air, which belongs to us all.


i.


walking through the park

feeling the warmth of sun  

smells of blossoming trees and flowers

crouching behind the bushes

watching the birds

illness    discord   violence  hatred 

have disappeared momentarily

in that moment you are

at one with  grass   trees    flowers   birds   

the world   the air


then peace is shattered

your presence in that place of serenity

is questioned

your right to existence

is threatened    

because of fear of the color of your skin

because of the fragility   the privilege

the entitlement

attached to the color of hers


you stand your ground

you bear witness to the travesty     the tragedy

the utter insanity of that moment

once again  someone is

claiming the space    the air

belongs to them    not to you


finally you leave

do you wonder what might have happened if you had stayed

if you had been there     when the police arrived

or do you know    do you fear

your ability to breath the air

would have been taken    permanently



ii.

in the street

you are lying there

thrown to the ground

crushed beneath the weight of

racism     hatred    privilege


you try to breath

you cannot

you smell the asphalt    filth    rubber    sweat

fear     confusion    anger    

you cry out   

they are not listening

they do not care

you want to breath  

you need to breath

you deserve to breath

it is your right    as a human being

the air is yours    it is all of ours

then you are no longer able

 to smell     to breath       


the world turns dark

screams around you    

people    trying to save you

but all you can feel is the weight

the burden

the hatred of

401 years    

8 minutes

46 second

piled on top of you

your people   your ancestors    your children

choking you    enslaving you

it’s knee digging into your neck

forbidding you from breathing

ever again


III.

we cannot breathe

the air 

is filled with smoke    gas   screams

we came here to

tell the world

we all deserve to breathe


instead we gasp choke vomit

we are afraid    

we fear    for our lives     


still gasping choking

you hear the sounds

the  shouts     the cries

no justice

no peace


but justice has died beneath the knees

of oppression

peace  cannot be found

in this moment of  mourning    anger    frustration

no justice    no peace

until we topple the barricades of

anger   hatred   disgust   rage    fear

until we tear down the walls that

racism  has built 

that privilege has maintained

preventing those without 

from breathing

so we can discover   together

what was the other side

hope   grace    mercy    love

eventually leading

to justice     to peace

for us all


in this moment it is

 a dream   we dare not dream

and yet we must

we cannot even start to imagine

and yet we shall


even though       we are still

unable to breath

unable to see

unable to take the first step

on the journey

to freedom




IV

the air belongs to all of us

we belong to the air

it is the source of life

what sustains us

connecting us to one another

to the world  

to the Divine


the air belongs to all of us

no one can claim it   as theirs

no one has the right to take it away 

yet in this moment  only some 

seem to have the privilege      that is not a privilege 

to breathe freely

others  cannot breath


the air has been filled with toxic hatred

 the stench from the flames of racism

we all must all be able to breath     free

we all must be able to dwell  free

we all must be able to live    free


but the air has been stolen    rationed     polluted 

by those trying to kill     to destroy

the lifebreath of our country

stealing the air    the speech    the rights

claiming only they are allowed 

to breathe the air freely


the victims of injustice must reclaim

what belongs to all of us

those of privilege need to 

walk beside  behind them


we must  all pray for the day

     no

prayers are insufficient

we must act 

in partnership with God

with all of humanity

to  tear down the walls     topple the barricades

open the door     the windows

letting in the air

for all of us


then we can live in a world

where no one will be denied air

denied their place   

denied their life

a world where we can all breath 

free at last





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