Life social justice Uncategorized

Witness 04/20/21

‘A bouquet of humanity.’

– Jerry Blackwell


The youngest among the crowd

that day was nine

On her way to that very store

to buy snacks

Walking with her cousin, who

was twelve that day

“Get off of him!” said the younger

girl, with plaintive scowl


She said it more than once.


The store clerk was a boy of

eighteen, and would’ve

sold the girls their snacks

had not fate intervened

He now bears guilt not

in any way his

just because he made

the call that brought the cops


The same cops told by

the little girl that they were hurting

the man on the pavement

“Get off of him!” said the younger

girl, with sterner scowl


She said it more than once.


Just like the woman who stopped

on her way to work in a

community garden, on her day off

from her paramedic job

she offered to help the man

while echoing the little girl’s plea.


She said it more than once.


Others gathered on that

neighborhood curb, showing

neighborhood concern for

the man on the pavement

saying he couldn’t breathe as

a different man, lacking any sense

of community, of humanity

kneeled on the gasping man’s neck


“He can’t breathe!”

“Get off of him!”

“You need to let him up!”

“He says he can’t breathe!”


They said it more than once.


But the man with his knee on the

neck of the man the community saw

in their community, on their street

standing on their curb, now yelling at

the indifferent man with his knee on

a neck, his hand in his pocket

like he was waiting for a bus at that

very bus stop – a bus he would

not be caught dead riding because

it didn’t go where he wanted to be

because people on those buses were

of a neighborhood not his

a neighborhood far from his

both in geography and in being


They said it more than once.


The little girl, her cousin, the paramedic

the retired man out for a stroll

the other guy who just happened by

And the teenaged girl who had presence

and a phone

and who filmed the whole thing

and the video found its way to every

nook and cranny of the globe

and millions of people in thousands

of other neighborhoods

took to their streets, their sidewalks

their own curbs, bus stops, corner stores

and they said the man with his knee

should’ve gotten up

should’ve let the other man breathe

should’ve helped the man when he

stopped breathing


They said it more than once.


We know this, because a young woman

recorded it all, shared it with the world

shared the truth of what happens

far too often on far too many city streets


They showed it more than once.


And now everybody knows that

the little girl was right, and knows

so much more than she did that day

when she said to the man with his

hand in his pocket: “Get off of him!”

And so does her cousin.

And do does the boy who worked in

the store and feels the pain

of that day as does the paramedic and

the retired man, and the others who

stopped that day, tried to stop what

they were seeing, tried to save a man

they did not know, from a man they

also did not know, but whose actions

changed all of their lives

changed all of our lives


They said it more than once.


Then they said it one more time.

In a courtroom, for all the world to hear

Lousy, clearly, directly.

They say they are not heroes

because they couldn’t stop it

but in stating for the record

what they saw, what they tried to do

reaffirming what the video showed

reinforcing what their community has

long known, what most of us ignored


In the end, one of the men who

prosecuted the man with the knee

on the neck of the neighborhood

praised the people on the curb –

‘A bouquet of humanity’


They are a bouquet

perpetually in bloom, never to wilt

forever vibrant with the hues of

justice, truth, and courage


They said it more than once.

They said it one more time and

the world, finally, listened.


– Mark L. Lucker

© 2021