What if the Spirit is a Breath?

By: Dr. Sharon R. Fennema, Curator, Join the Movement toward Racial Justice

2020. February 23. March 13. May 25. Amaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. For many, the murders of these beloved siblings of African descent were a catalyzing moment, as millions of people around the world took to the streets in protest and resistance. In the months that would follow, many of our churches and communities would commit and recommit to antiracist journeys. Yet, in 2022, killings by police reached a record high. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act languishes in the Senate. And, three years later, we wonder if we have what it takes to sustain our antiracist organizing and mobilizing as faithful followers of the revolutionary Jesus for the long term. As we move into the season of Pentecost, may we take the time to remember the tragic and unjust losses of our precious kin and to notice how we continue to be called to join the movement of the Spirit toward racial justice.

based on Pentecost scriptures Acts 2:1-21, John 20:19-23 and John 7:37-39

Some say, the Spirit
or in other words, Liberation
or in other words, the Movement
or in other words, Abolition
or in other words, Mutual Aid
or in other words, Healing Justice
or in other words, Revolution

Some say the Spirit is hurricane loud
winds that sweep in with their door slamming, shutter banging currents
tempting us to proclaim, “we are the storm”
and leaving us wishing for an eye to rest in
while we await news of the dead, of what will need repair

Some say the Spirit is what scorches us
the all-consuming fervor that holds our feet to the fire
and compels our awakening from complicit slumber
too often a flame that ignites as suddenly and ferociously
as it burns out

Some say the Spirit sounds like me
speaks a language I understand
talks to me in words I know in ways I can hear
meets me where I’m at – mired in the muck of racialized capitalism
is at its most miraculous when it is the most legible to empire

Some say the Spirit is intoxicating
luring us into new ideas, new understandings, new practices
that make us unrecognizable to those who surround us
incomprehensible to the logics of supremacy
dismissed as naïve dreamers or domestic terrorists

What if the Spirit is a wound
that remembers bullet holes torn through precious flesh
and still testifies to a resilience that does not come unscarred
holding the promise that this freedom is real
glistening with the possibility of flesh on its way to healing

What if the Spirit is a breath
when a knee is on your neck
an exhale that breaks chokeholds
and resuscitates lungs stilled on the subway
because you can’t kill the Spirit

What if the Spirit is a heart that flows
pour itself out to remember that we are water
and that all water is connected to all water everywhere
and we are a collective that springs from Love
an interdependence that quenches fearmongering thirst

What if the Spirit is rivers of living water
showing us that all struggle is connected to all struggle everywhere
from Flint’s lead-laden sinks and tubs, glasses and pitchers
to Standing Rock’s oil-soaked Missouri River watershed
to Atlanta’s sediment choaked Intrenchment Creek

What if the Spirit is what happens when we breath together
What if the Spirit is the way we pour out toward one another
What if the Spirit is
in other words, Liberation
in other words, the Movement
in other words, Abolition
in other words, Mutual Aid
in other words, Healing Justice
in other words, Revolution.


I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, man, please. The knee in my neck … I can’t move … Mama, Mama…Please. Please. I can't breathe officer. Don't kill me. They gonna kill me man. Come on man. I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe. They gonna kill me. They gonna kill me. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. Please Sir. Please. Please. Please I can’t breathe. – George Floyd

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