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March on Washington 2020

I have a dream – that our tears over oppression will motivate cries for justice that become shouts of joy as justice flows down like rivers, and peace like everlasting streams.

On the 57th anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington for civil rights, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic “I have a dream” speech, millions of North Americans dream of racial justice that is still tragically lacking in their country. And some, like George Floyd and Rodney Levi, experienced a nightmare - death at the hands of police who vowed to serve and protect people. So on August 28, 2020, thousands marched on Washington even amidst the resurgent coronavirus pandemic. The need to speak out for justice and demand social change were just too urgent to convey online. This year's theme, “Get Off Our Necks,” refers to the nearly nine minutes that a police officer pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck until the unarmed black man suffocated this May. Unfortunately, the outpouring of cries for police reform have not prevented more deaths and injuries at the hands of police officers in both countries since then. Racial equality and voting rights in America are other themes of the march.

In solidarity, this poem expresses sorrow for victims of police brutality and racial injustice, demands justice and equality, with impatient but indefatigable faith that one day no one will understand how skin colour could make a life-and-death difference to North Americans in the 21st century.

 

Stand and Fight – for Human Life

How can those charged to serve and protect
kill an unarmed man with a knee to the neck?
Why do brown people fear the men in blue 
when there is no difference between me and you?

It’s not right
We see the light
We’ll stand and fight
For human rights

Why do people living off their last piece of earth
get sold out and silenced as if they’re of no worth?
Who gave away the land of their forefathers?
I won’t profit off of it any longer

It’s not right
We see the light
We’ll stand and fight
For human rights

The system’s not broken – it’s totally rigged!
It’s time to give up this exploitative gig
How can 1% of us own all of the rest
with the gap getting wider till there’s nothing left?

It’s not right
We see the light
We’ll stand and fight
For human rights

The salt in my chocolate shouldn’t be a child’s tears
The genes in my corn shouldn’t whither next year’s ears
True riches are clean souls, clean air, and clean water
It’s leaving enough fish for our sons and our daughters

If we think the goal is winning, we’ve already lost
If we think that wealth is money, remember the true cost
We can’t restore one life after it is lost
We can’t refreeze one iceberg once it is thawed

It’s not right
We see the light
We’ll stand and fight
For human rights

We need justice, equality, shared resources, green ecology
We have to expose corporate greed and ideology
7 billion people on one planet earth
What fair share do you think each one of us is worth?

I won’t pursue a dream that makes someone’s life a nightmare
in a sweatshop earning peanuts for my Nikes or my smartwatch
We’re one global family and I can’t pretend
that the means are justified by selfish ends

It’s not right
We see the light
We’ll stand and fight
For human rights

We’re told that’s the way that it has to be
It takes violence to protect your marketed dreams
Then you export “democracy” with lucrative contracts
Guerrilla or freedom fighter? It depends on who’s talking

But violence begets violence in a vicious cycle
I refuse to be complicit in it any longer

And it’s supposed to be obvious but to me it’s unclear
Why I need a big house, SUV, and TV
What I need is a future that is sustainable
And shared with everyone so our dreams are all attainable

That’s what’s right
We see the light
We’ll stand and fight
For human life

Carole St. Laurent
 

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