Mourning, Broken, Afraid: A Letter to My Friends

June 2, 2020Jessi Kingston

If you are my friend, know that I am mourning the heinous murder of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers who worked for a police department with a long history of excessive use of force against Black and Brown bodies.

If you are my friend, know that I am suffocating. I can feel the police officer’s knee crushing my throat and I am gasping for air, desperate to live.

If you are my friend, know that I am broken. My heart has been ripped out, chopped up into tiny pieces that have been placed at the site of each murdered Black person in the United States. The blood from my heart stains the ground as a reminder of their tragic fate.

If you are my friend, know that I am afraid. While we seemed to have had a few weeks reprieve during this pandemic, you are seeing that it is open season on Black people. I am afraid that a police officer(s) or a white person may harm or kill me for existing in this world because of the color of my skin.

If you are my friend, breathe.

If you are my friend, know that I am sad. I have watched streets and buildings burn night after night, destroying access to food, clothing, medicine, and other necessities for our most vulnerable community members. Assuming we even get the necessary funding, it will take months and years to rebuild and recover.

If you are my friend, know I am angry. I have watched a car drive into protesters within 200 feet of me because their travels were more important than the murder of an unarmed Black man.

If you are my friend, know I am anxious. I have seen several public comments advocating for the killing Black people, which includes my death.

If you are my friend, breathe.

To my Black brothers and sisters, know I am standing with you even if you cannot see me. I am sending you my love, strength, and courage as you protest for the arrest and persecution of the four police officers, criminal justice reform, racial equity, and the right for us to peacefully live.

To my white friends, it is time to stop being fragile and afraid. We are not three fifths of a person; we are whole people of flesh and blood like you. I need you to stop judging the actions of Black people demanding the right to live and commit to dismantling individual, institutional and structural racism. I need you on the streets demanding justice, equity, transformation, and my right to live. You must be a part of the movement and change the structures of oppression. My life depends on your involvement.

If you are my friend, breathe.

If you are my friend, take another breath.

If you are my friend, breathe and feel the energy of oxygen flow into your body giving you a sense of calmness and peace.

If you are my friend, know that your breath is precious.

If you are my friend, breathe for George Floyd, whose breath we agonizingly watch leave his body as he was crushed under the weight of police officers.

If you are my friend, breathe for George Floyd’s family as they gasp for air mourning the loss of their beloved.

If you are my friend, let George Floyd’s family take your breath as they cry, scream and breakdown during this unimaginable time. They need your strength and support.

If you are my friend, breathe as we remember the names of all the Black men and women who were killed by police officers. May their memory be for a blessing.

If you are my friend, breathe.

Related Posts

Supporting Survivors of Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community

October 28, 2022
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) in the U.S. This year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) chose the theme of #Every1KnowsSome1 to highlight how common domestic violence is. Each of us may (or likely) knows someone, either in our Jewish community or our secular communities, who has been impacted by or is a survivor of domestic violence.

The Heroic Work of Repentance

September 6, 2022
This time of year, we hear again and again about how much emphasis Judaism places on the nuances of how to address harm of all kinds. I am convinced that the steps of repentance and repair outlined by the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides make sense not only in our individual lives when we harm our coworkers, friends, family, and intimate partners, but also in reference to the communal, cultural, and national levels.

Awakening with Gratitude

August 31, 2022
Judaism encourages us to awaken each day with thoughts of gratitude. I recite the Modeh Ani each day to thank the Divine for returning my soul. I was recently asked where our soul goes while we sleep. This poem is my response.