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526 Seconds

Written on:June 11, 2020
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In memory of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Elijah McClain, and the blessed others. Learn their names. Take the time to know all of the rest of their names. Black Lives Matter.

One, two, three, one, two, three, breathe
I wrote this lyric in 2014 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer was acquitted
and before Eric Garner couldn’t
One, two, three, one, two, three, breathe

I wrote it in the context of the reflective breathing I attempted
in anticipation of justice for dear Trayvon
immediately prior to George Zimmerman’s verdict
One, two, three, one, two, three breathe

Of course, my next breath was panicked and forced
It was painful
It was violent
As gasps tend to be

In meditation, we have the privilege to focus on our breathing while we try to shut everything else out
In reflection, we allow our breathing to return to the subconscious because we are leaning into pain
or empathy, or growth
or hope for understanding

Reflective breathing, guided by the subconscious, is inherently sustaining by nature
as breathing is essential to existence and we would not be able to live, hope, dream
if our subconscious were not able to breathe for us
Focusing on breathing in meditation is a conscious choice, letting go of it to reflect is a gift

We reflect in silence
We reflect to calm
We reflect to heal
We reflect to find peace

One, two, three, one, two, three, breathe
This rhythmic replication of the reflective breathing pattern from my 2014 lyric takes about three seconds to recite
as does every subconscious, peaceful breath we take
In, out, breathe—in, out, breathe—in, out, breathe—in, out, breathe

George Floyd was on the concrete for 526 seconds
He was robbed of 175 peaceful breaths on May 25th
On the 526th second, when Derek Chauvin’s knee was removed from his neck, George Floyd was already dead
There was not another breath to be taken, he had already been robbed of every future breath that day

________________

Today, in solidarity with CWA for Black Lives
I stopped work in order to reflect
for 8 minutes and 46 seconds
at noon—Mile High time

The withholding of my labor was a choice
The ability to reflect was a privileged gift provided by my subconcious
On the roof of my apartment building under the sweltering Denver sun
Today at noon, I knelt and placed my bare knee on hot concrete

One minute in, I was reflecting on my city
I was reflecting on the life of Elijah McClain
and the tear gas unleashed by the Denver Police Department two weeks ago against peaceful protestors
One, two, three, one, two, three, breathe

Two minutes in, I was reflecting on my country
I was reflecting on the lives of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and Michael Brown and the South
and the determination and grit of the movement and how this moment cannot falter and how we must achieve transformative change
One, two, three, one, two, three, breathe

Four minutes in, my breathing was starting to creep into my consciousness
I tried to power through by reflecting on the lives of George Floyd and Philando Castile
and by reflecting on my friends on the frontline of the movement in Minneapolis—in CWA, CTUL, Black Visions Collective
and as I focused on my pride for their accomplishments this past weekend, tears began welling up in my eyes

Six minutes in, my breathing became panicked and I began weeping
My thoughts turned to my home state of Texas and to the life of Sandra Bland and how George Floyd was from H-Town and how he was friends with Stephen Jackson
But those thoughts were buried beneath the pain in my knee
And the shortness of my breath

Eight minutes in, I was gasping for air, the pain in my knee was becoming acute
The only thought in my head was, “I’m no longer in reflection, I am suffering but also it’s nothing compared to George Floyd’s suffering
or the suffering of every black life”—so over and over, I just kept telling myself, “you have to power through”
46 seconds later I collapsed on the concrete, exhausted

In my reflection today, I learned that there is another time when you must concentrate on breathing and it is not a choice because it is violent
Black Americans are robbed of the gift of reflection, of their hopes and dreams when they are violently concentrating on trying to breathe
I came out of my privileged reflection today with a singular thought—until black lives are free to breathe in the United States, I can’t
I came out of my privileged reflection today more dedicated to the fight ahead and more determined in my resolve that we must win

Written on June 11th, 2020 in Denver, CO

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