Memorial Community Poem

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After the death of George Floyd, Memorial Junior High School ninth graders came together to write a community poem to help shine a light on the recent acts of hatred and racism, explore their feelings of anger, anxiety, and fear, and further push towards change. 

Students shared words, phrases, questions, original poetry lines and quotes. Using these submissions, Solomon Akaeze and Victoria Salisan, with the help of English and Reading Department Chair Taylor Connolly and Mathematics Department Chair Nakeshia Smith Farnum, formed a collaborative community poem titled, “I Can’t Breathe, Again.” The inspiration for this piece came from Morning Edition’s “Running for Your Life: A Community Poem for Ahmaud Arbery.”

I Can’t Breathe, Again: A MJHS Community Poem in Honor of George Floyd

Why is ending racism so controversial?
50 shades of black 
Sad that in the red, white, and blue we can’t even be that

America, the land of the free
The flag red with the blood of OUR ancestors
The white of OUR bones, the foundation of this country 
The blue running with the tears of forgotten slaves
 
To us we are light skin, brown skin, dark skin,
But to them we are BLACK 
Bad 
Lethal 
Aggressive
Crooks 
Killers

All these stereotypes suffocating us until we can’t breathe
I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I CAN’T BREATHE
As I feel the knee of an oppressive society bearing down on my neck
Squeezing the life out of a community already broken

Screaming all lives matter 
Not understanding that all lives won’t matter until my life matters, 
until his life matters, 
until her life matters, 
until black lives matter

Why can't they see black girls are beautiful, black boys are enough?
What they don't see is what makes us matter

Yet Privilege,
Privilege that shields you to my suffering 
Privilege that gives you life and takes mine
Privilege that drowns out the cries of a people in need
Your complacency is complicity in the genocide of my people

If you are not for us, you are against us. 
To win this war against evil, we must stand united as a people

United we stand or divided we shall fall
We fight for a day we have the freedom to live, 
the freedom to hold a bag a skittles, 
the freedom to wear a hood, 
the freedom to jog, 
the freedom to be in the comfort of your own home  
We fight to live, to love, to BREATHE.

Compiled by: Solomon Akaeze and Victoria Salisan
Contributors: Solomon Akaeze, Roland Alvarenga, Madelyn Clarke, Aniyah Dingle, Frankie Gonzalez,  Tayyibah Hussain, Layla Louissant, Michael Ramos, Victoria Salisan, Mrs. Nakeshia Smith-Farnum