I can’t breathe. I am the African-American man named George Floyd whose neck you are breaking with the weight of your body. The pressure of your knee is blocking my windpipe. You are crushing the spirit from my soul. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am the person dying of COVID-19. Grasping for a hand to hold, longing for a comforting word from a loved one. I am alone in my New York City apartment, alone in my prison cell, alone under a plastic tent. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am the Yemenis child under the rubble of what once was my school. Wondering why I can no longer hear the comfort of my mother’s song, why I can’t feel the softness of her bosom. You are dropping bombs all around and over me. I am starving. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am the person who grew up believing that I lived in a democracy. You are teargassing and shooting me with pepper spray. I stumble and fall to the ground, disorientated and afraid. I believe in justice, but my beliefs are being met with violence. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am the refugee drowning in the seas where you go on holiday and sunbathe. I am Alan Kurdi, the Syrian child lying mute on the beach. You have left me no choice but to board this flimsy raft in order to seek a place of safety. Salty water is filling my lungs. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am an everyday kind of person. You are making me wear this mask, forcing me to download apps that trace my every step, telling me half-truths, dis-empowering me. My smile is now hidden. I have lost my job, my business, my home. I don’t know how to feed my kids. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am the woman cornered by the men in my life. You look at me with want in your eyes. You rape and pillage my body and soul. I am buried under your carnal power. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am the animals locked up in crowded pens, without warm sunlight, without grass under my feet. You steal my calves, my piglets, my eggs, me. I am no longer a mere beast. You have turned me into parts hacked and packed into plastic. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am the wild ones that roam this planet. You have stolen my jungles and forests. You have burnt my trees and caves. You have robbed me of my tusks and skins. I no longer know where to go. I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I am the Earth, the Mother who has borne you. You have covered me with poisons and killed nearly all that lives inside me. You have filled my ocean depths with plastics. You have turned my waters into waste. I can’t breathe.
Bring me breath. The breath of prosperity, stability, health. The breath that ignites the lusty cry of the newborn. Bring me the breath of ripe rippling wheat, sea breezes, and meadow flowers. Bring me the breath of intelligence and wisdom, kindness and abundance. Bring me the breath, the inspiration to be courageous, to love and forgive. Let me breathe. Breathe yourself. For everything, each one of us, is held together in the breath of God.