racial justice, like breathing, is essential

A short essay by Zenub Kakli

I have practiced meditation for a while now and with more frequency during the pandemic. In recent months, I have experienced moments of great intimacy with my breath as a centering and grounding gift. In times of confusion, fatigue, and distraction, there is my breath. I know it won’t always be here, but for now it is, and I am grateful for it.

Over the past weeks, I have been thinking about my brother in humanity George Floyd, his pleas to the police and his cry to his mother. I do not need to watch the video to experience a deep sadness and anger about how his life ended. Reading his last words was enough to convey to me the horror of what he endured for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. The heavens heard his cry and ripped open our chests, and what else could people do but take over the streets.

The act of one breathing human being taking away the breath of another pains me beyond words. Breath is given to us by a power beyond us, and no one’s breath is ours to take away. When I bring into my field of awareness the centuries of systemic racism and oppression of Black communities, I can feel the shallowing of my breath. The pain and suffering of Black people at the hands of White people makes some of us need to stop and catch our breath.

I deeply wish George Floyd was still breathing.

I sit, breathe, and extend lovingkindness to my Black siblings and to the allies who are showing up for communities who long for change, justice, and peace. Enough is enough. I hear the call of people younger than I am, and I gratefully follow them.

As long as we have our breath, we can do something to make our communities safer for Black people. I personally implore you to go within and extend lovingkindness to others. And extend lovingkindness to yourself. Maybe the practice will help you move in the world with the compassion, courage, and confidence that social justice requires.

I extend lovingkindness to you.

Zenub Kakli (she/her) helps social justice leaders explore the intersection between their personal, professional and spiritual values so that they can lead their organizations and lives differently. Her goal is to help people who serve others to extend the same level of compassion and understanding to themselves. She has written and taught on the subject of race and education. She is a wife and a mother of three children.

Black Lives Matter Vigil in Rozzie Square, a 9 x 12 oil painting by Wendi Gray. You can follow her on Instagram @graywendi.