“I Can’t Breathe”—A Black National Anthem

By Drea Finley

 

“I can’t breathe” is the national anthem of Black folks,
Oh say didn’t you know?

With knees on our necks—George Floyd buried in the cement of our nation’s platitudes where Derek Chauvin
bared the weight of his white cop soul—
duty to protect and serve
the land of the free
and home of the brave

“I can’t breathe,” is the national anthem of Black folks,
Oh say didn’t you know?

Where forced entries into mistaken homes and hallways cost Breonna Taylor her Black woman soul.

“I can’t breathe,” is the national anthem of Black folks,
Oh say didn’t you know?

Where Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Rayshard Brooks, Tony McDade, Elijah McClain and countless others
May we say their names and God rest their beautiful Black souls.

“I can’t breathe,” is the national anthem of Black folks,
Oh say didn’t you know?

We witnessed a modern-day lynching as we watched the life leave the body of George Floyd’s soul…

“I can’t breathe,” is the national anthem of Black folks,
Oh say didn’t you know?

And yet from our Black bodies the greatest of creations were built,
this very land upon which you stand
came from an ancestral heritage that breeds white guilt.

With a history so rich,
There’s no wonder as to why we are hunted

But the cry of our people is an ache that will bleed
For so long you weren’t listening…

“I can’t breathe,”
is the national anthem of Black folks,

Oh say, didn’t you know?

Portrait of Drea Finley

Drea Finley is Williams’ dialogue facilitator in the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. They are a spoken-word artist, scholar, activist and community organizer.

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