Fine Print Poet: Kelvin Walker

I… Can’t… Breathe…
by Kelvin Walker

I…
Can’t…
Breathe…
It’s a simple phrase
It’s just three words
Yet, the power of them
Said over and over again
Should have been enough
To alert those
Who were constraining him
That the force they were using
Was beyond unnecessary
It was cruel and excessive
And they should have backed off
To let him catch his breath
Instead, he’s now dead…silent
But we wouldn’t know what happened
Without the video speaking for him
Because, obviously, he can’t speak for himself anymore

I…
Can’t…
Breathe…

Birdwatching while Black
And, then comes the attack
Simply because he asked her
To put her dog on a leash
And though SHE came at HIM
Screaming that she’s being threatened BY him
While he calmly films the incident
It was for his own protection
But he shouldn’t have to live that way
Nobody should

Videoing every movement that you make
All because, without it, your life could be at stake
Well, truthfully, even with the video
You’re not guaranteed you’ll go free
But one thing is sure to me
Something needs to change because
I’m at the point where, personally
I’m tired of hearing the words…

I…
Can’t…
Breathe…

She worked her shift and came home
Simply sleeping in the bed that was her own
And numerous bullets later, she’s gone
But life goes on as if hers didn’t matter BECAUSE…
We’re told to “Wait for all of the facts.”
I don’t know much
But what I do know is this
While we “wait for the facts” I am now wrestling inside
Because, wherever I go
I feel like MY camera must be on
Ready to video my surroundings
So that, from beginning to end
The evidence will not be questioned

Dramatic, you might say
However, I see no other way
That I can make it today
Or my beautiful Black daughters and sons
Or my grand-babies that are yet to come
In this day and age
I shouldn’t have to worry or dismay
Over whether or not they’ll make it home safely
Or if, even with video evidence they’ll be believed
But this is reality in the nation in which we live

I… Can’t… Breathe…

And, I’m at the point where I say almost daily
Dear Lord Jesus, please come quickly
You are the Only One who can bring true justice
But until You return
Move Your Church to reject this
Move Your people to speak out against this violence
Without questioning or putting the VICTIMS on trial
Move Your people to stop living in denial
We must face, without hesitation
That injustice is embedded in the core of this nation
And Your Church can’t stay silent about racism and discrimination
May we rise up and say, “We will tolerate it no more.”
May this make us sick to our very core
And, I beg of you,
People of God, speak up now
For, it’s just too much and I no longer know how
I can explain, yet again, why we must begin
To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him

So Church, HELP ME BREATHE
Stand up and say, “No more!”
Reject injustice at its very core
Brothers and sisters, HELP ME BREATHE
Weep, wail, and lament
Over lives senselessly taken by evil intent
People of God, HELP ME BREATHE
Root out injustice at its core
Let that which God abhors
Be abhorred by you and me
Until the day we all stand free
And see the Image Dei in all humanity
Then, and only then
Will we put a stop to the craziness
That fuels racism and injustice
But, until then, I’ll pray for you
And you pray for me because, right now…

I…
Can’t…
Breathe…

Kelvin Walker, born and raised in Oyster Bay, Long Island, is superintendent of the C&MA’s Metropolitan District, which encompasses New Jersey and the portion of New York that includes New York City, Long Island, and the counties of Rockland, Orange, Putnam, and Westchester. He has been a licensed official worker with the C&MA since 1988 and ordained in 1990. He has served on staff of churches in Pennsylvania and Virginia. At Nyack College Rockland County, he was campus pastor. In 2019,  Kelvin was elected Corporate Vice President of the U.S. Alliance–the first African-American to serve as a C&MA corporate officer. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred music at Nyack College and a master’s degree in professional studies in church development at Alliance Theological Seminary (ATS).  He is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at ATS. He and his wife, Doni, are the parents of six adult children.