1.6.21 A poem

By Carissa Purnell

The day we knew would come.
Call it the breaking point, the end, the beginning…
It all hurts.

Your deep breaths have become shaky.
You just can’t seem to get through them without the onslaught of sobs.
The breakdown you know, am I right?
I bet you cannot close your eyes until your tears run empty and they swell into slumber.
Then you wake up in the morning, and you go again.
Can’t stop won’t stop.

This is the reality of your American Dream.

The hope and faith that used to fill you are dangerously low.
In this moment, “they go low, you go high,” has run its course.
Your optimism in progressive change is hard to see behind your tear soaked gaze,
and the promise of solidarity is getting pushed aside by your rage.

Deep, uncontrollable, bitter anger…
…tinged with just enough hate for you to worry.
This is a new feeling. The ugliness no words can capture.

This is where Trump’s America has brought you, right here at my side.
I am tired. I am resentful. I am exhausted.

To the front lines of protests we went.
Weary minded from pouring over data to prove what we live every day.
We are murdered. We are shot. We are pushed out.
Our communities are not invested in.
Juggling semantics: black, defund, lives, reinvest, matter, reallocate.
Meetings, calls, posts, emails, letters, and marches.
Drinking that tea after losing your voice call, after call, after call, after call…

For George. For AOC. For Vanessa. For Tamir.
For Bernie. For Philando For Biden. For Oscar.
For Wizard. For Alexis.  For your county. For your City.
For Texas. For Georgia.
Para la gente. Para la raza.

Would you do it all over?
I’ll answer for you,
Absolutely. No doubt. Pues claro.

However my friend, the truth you and I feared, but knew so well is here.
Look around. January 6, 2021.
We held it because society expects us to.
We held it because we have been raised to model the civility never afforded to us.
Held only in silence to avoid the shame our parents assume we might feel.
Wrong. No secret. We knew this was coming.
Hate to say, “told ya so,” pero te dije.

White people will not loosen their grip, let go of, and
do not want people of color to share in their power. 

Our parents came here, crossed borders, oceans, walls, and fears for opportunity.
The opportunity they hold, in our schools, banks, housing, investments, systems, and institutions, in the spaces they control. The spaces they control with their power. They created race for this purpose. Socially constructed to imagine the other.

Yet the transformational and rooted change we need to combat this requires courage,
not just ours, but those people. You know them. The silent conductors.

No, not the ones we are taught to condemn, those loud ones we love to hate.
The terrorists storming the White House who will forever be tangled in hateful ignorance.
They will evade justice as they did today, skirting the law and committing acts of sedition. Finding freedom in their acts of treason on behalf of their racist fascist leader. They are blissfully inept to find empathy or accept us, any of us.

They are on the other side too friend, look. You know them better.
The people who came to the protest, but didn’t vote.
The people who sit in silence as we scream.
The people who text their thanks, but refuse to speak up.
The people who repost, reshare, and influence, but refuse to be first.
The people who are so woke they snap pictures while we march.
The people who stand while we kneel.

No, I am not sorry.
No, I don’t think we should create space for them to unpack their privilege.
We don’t need to quantitatively prove our right to live at the pace of their comfort.
Allyship is an investment in us today, tomorrow, and forever.
They are in, or they are part of the problem. Ride or die.
Unconditional love. Amor Sin Condiciónes.

Our struggle bore a resiliency they have tried to rob.
Redlining. Felon disenfranchisement. Slavery.
The War on Drugs. Travel Bans. Internment.
Student loans. Trump’s Tax Plan. The Thin Blue Line.
Environmental warfare. Voter suppression. Paris Accord withdrawal.
2021 Elections. Supreme Court appointments. Jim Crow.
etc… (clap emoji)…etc…(clap emoji)… etc… (clap emoji)…

Try me. Try us. I changed my mind, we aren’t done.
We are just getting started.

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Carissa Purnell

About Carissa Purnell

Carissa Purnell has a Ph.D. in education. She’s a member of the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System Board of Directors and an activist with a strong passion for soccer and East Salinas.