Breathe In; Speak Out (Spoken Word)

Following the news of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police on Monday, May 25th, 2020, I held my breath for a while.  The reminder I gave myself to breathe was one that I’m now growing accustomed to after the repetition of so many incidents of police racism in the news.  I wouldn’t call this now-custom a result of desensitization; I still get flashbacks of the first video portraying such a travesty that I ever watched.

This time, I couldn’t stay silent.  I feel I’ve been silent (read: silenced) for too long.  I was hesitant to even post this poem considering that the recording captures my voice failing.  And then I realized, that as I felt my voice failing, I could also feel my heart succeeding, trumping fear.  So here we are.

My poem (audio and text below), is titled Breathe In; Speak Out.  It is written in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter, and recalls the murders of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, and many, many others.  RIP.


– KD

Poem Text Below:

Breathe In; Speak Out

They got their arms all around my neck and I can’t breathe,
Arms all around my neck and I can’t breathe.

Can’t breathe like smotherin’
From years, decades, and centuries of otherin’
They either got us locked up behind bars
Or pinned down behind cars
Another day, another dead. It turns the force to a farce.
Protect and serve;
Reject and sever
any of the ties that ever bound us together
Or should I say chains?
Or should I say cuffs?
Cuz they only hold us harder when we huff and we puff.
I guess we’re big bad wolves
when we’re riding through the hood.
It’s a wonder with all this bad that we’re still fighting for the good.
Fighting for justice?
I need that out of my system.
They took the roles of the cops and the robbers and they switched ’em.
Game over.
Full grown, still lookin’ over our shoulder
For the ones who should save us?
Look at what they gave us.
Another man down on the ground.
It’s like they crave us.
Like they need bodies in bags.
Need to strike a windpipe for every stripe on the flag.
This is breakin’ me.
This is not what we meant when we said we’d TakeAKnee

They got their knees all up on my neck and I can’t breathe
Knees all up on my neck. I can’t breathe.

Can’t breathe like drownin’.
Out in the street, out with people all around and
We’re still goin’ down,
From a bullet, from a gun.
Cuz we were goin’ for a run
In a white neighbourhood and now our life is done?
It makes no sense for me to even be sayin’ it.
If this is our world, why the hell would we stay in it?
Dark people.
Dark thoughts.
But the dark deeds stay comin’ from our cops.
He was reachin’ for ID and all he got was five shots.
It puts your stomach in knots.
With his four year old girl in the car, in the back
She had to see it all happen; I guess that’s just bein’ black.

They got a gun all up in my back and I can’t breathe.
They got a gun all up in my back and I can’t breathe.

Can’t breathe like anxiety,
like a panic attack
cuz the man in blue is the man that attacks.
How soon the gun clicks.
It’s true, only bruises ensue when black and blue mix.
Every new murder just feels like suffocation
cuz death weighs heavy when there’s no justification.
So please excuse a negro if he’s growin’ impatient.
There is no measure to the size and scope of black indignation!
Some call it black rage.
Some call it land of the free, home of the black cage.
Well, some might be dead, some might be in prison.
Some might be scared but yo, it’s one life we’re given.
And we’re still here!
Still tryin’ to survive.
And we’re still here!
Still, like air we rise.
Yeah we’re still here!
Sometimes gaspin’ for air
but we’re still here
even though they blastin’ us out there
We are still here!
Still livin’,
still breathin’,
still tryin’ to make a world for our kids to believe in.
Breathe in…
while you can.
It could be your last breath.
Better use that to speak until we see the last death.
Yeah, we’re still here.
Breathe in. Speak out.

They got their arms all around my neck and I can’t breathe.
They got their arms all around my neck. I can’t breathe.

– by Khodi Dill




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s