‘Please, I Can’t Breathe’

Hollie Adams/Getty

He has

              sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people

He has plundered our—

                                           ravaged our—

                                                                         destroyed the lives of our—

taking away our­—

                                  abolishing our most valuable—

and altering fundamentally the Forms of our—
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for
Redress in the most humble terms:

                                                                Our repeated

Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration

and settlement here.

                                    —taken Captive

                                                                    on the high Seas

                                                                                                     to bear—

— Tracy K. Smith, “Declaration”

Stephen Maturen/Getty

and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.

— Audre Lorde, “Litany for Survival”

Adam Berry/Stringer

“Please, I can’t breathe.”

— George Floyd