Tomorrow in Washington: Who Can't Breathe?


Who Can't Breathe?

Three Outcries and a Prayer

Tomorrow morning, on the National Mall in Washington DC, the Poor Peoples Campaign will  gather many thousands of the poor, of people of low income and low wealth, and their committted allies, to Assemble.

To join as Americans and voters, as human beings in a country wracked by fury and despair, in an Earth plagued by fire, flood, famine, and disease brought on by unsouled corporations driven by  great wealth and no compassion.

We Assemble on Shabbat, one day before Juneteenth -- both days a mark in human history of freedom from slavery and subjugation, days sacred to justice and to love. At 8:45 a.m at Freedom Plaza at 13th and G Streets there will be a multireligious Shabbat service  devoted to the Breath of Life. It has been organized mainly by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and several other Jewish bodies, at the request and invitation of the Poor Peoples Campaign. 

Among the invitees, The Shalom Center and I were able to provide the spine of that service, "Who Can't Breathe? -- Three Outcries and a Prayer."  That litany of sorrow and love itself affirms three liturgical celebrations of Breath in the Shabbat morning service: Elohai nishama  (My God, the Breath You have given me is pure and joyful); Nishmat Kol Chai (Our God, the Breath of all life praises Your Name; Kol Hanshama (Each breath and all Breath celebrates Yah; Hallelu-Yah!). 

The Poor Peoples Assembly will then convene at 9:30 on the Mall much closer to the Capitol. Check the PPC  FaceBook page for live-streaming. Join us!

With blessings of Shabbat and Juneteenth, of love and liberation, Arthur


Who Can't Breathe?

Three Outcries and a Prayer

I Can’t Breathe 

Again and again,

With gun or choke-hold.

Some police have stolen the breath of Black Americans.

The police are not merely police

For they hold a national authority

To use violence on behalf of the nation:

To serve us all, protect us all.

When they subjugate the Black community

They implicate us all,

They make us all Subjugators

And they subjugate us all.

They combine: some prosecutors,

Some judges, some bail systems, some prison guards,

Join to shape a system of criminal injustice.

But their misdeeds have stirred

The beginnings of a great uprising against racism.

We will let no ruler pretend

The protest is the danger.


We Can’t Breathe 

All humanity is choking

From a virus that invades our lungs

We have left no space for other species

And the virus leaps into our lives.

If our rulers minimize the danger

It becomes still worse

And we discover yet again

That Poor and Aged, Black, Brown, Indigenous communities

Suffer still worse, die at still higher rates.

As the virus chokes our jobs, our businesses, our societies,

Our democracy. Our lives.


Earth Can’t Breathe


All life on Earth depends on Interbreathing.

All animals breathe in what all plants breathe out;

The trees breathe in what we breathe out.

Our Interbreathing is the Breath that keeps all Earth alive.

Our Interbreathing is the very Name we call You,

For YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh

Is the still small voice of simply breathing.

But the Flood of CO2

That we call the “climate crisis” 

Chokes our breathing.

Chokes Your Breathing,

All Earth is scorched by burning fossil fuels

And Carbon Pharaohs burn their way to faster wealth.

While the neighborhoods they poison 

With coal dust and fumes of oil   

Breathe air that chokes the children into asthma.


Earth can’t breathe and Your Name rattles in our throats.


A Prayer and a Response 

You Who are the Breath of Life,

At Sinai You taught us,

You shall not take My Name with an empty heart.

You shall not breathe My Name with empty Spirit.

Every breath we take

is Itself Your Name,

Part of that great Breath that is the Holy One.

You Who are the Breath of Life,

Heal us to breathe.


I Speak 

I Who free you from choking

In the Tight and Narrow Place:

I Who send you Broad Spaces

Where My breath,

My wind, blows free:

No one shall rob you of My Name,

My Breath, My Holy Spirit.

Embody Me!



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