June 17, 2020
Thelma Khelghati

I’d like to preface this poem by saying that I am not a poet. I rarely write poetry, and it’s usually when I’ve been deeply moved by something. And of course, we are all deeply moved by the killing of George Floyd. I woke up one morning with the first line of this poem—“We black mothers, we fear for the lives of our sons….,”—ringing in my head. And I realized that, that fear is a constant, even if subliminal. That all black mothers worry that our sons might end up in some confrontation with the police that turns deadly. And so this poem was born.

We black mothers

We black mothers, we fear for the lives of our sons. . . .
It could be a casual walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood
Or a run in the park
Or a drive down a street
Or a stance on a corner
Or any insignificant gesture . . .
It doesn’t take much
To grant license to kill
And we fear for the lives of our sons . . .

Power and superiority unhinged
Our shadow fears unleashed
How is it that we kill so easily
That the desire is not to protect
But to extinguish
Ahmaud Arbery
Antronie Scott
Trayvon Martin
Freddie Gray
Michael Brown
The list goes on . . .
George Floyd the latest
But undoubtedly not the last.

Black lives, they do matter.
They are some mothers’ sons
Who have reared and cared and loved them
And don’t want to see their blood splattered on the ground
Their life force wasted after so many years of tender nurturing and hopes and dreams
So we fear for the lives of our sons.

From Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe” . . . New York 2014
To George Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” . . . Minneapolis, 2020
How many have we lost? And . . .
How is it that there is no mercy?
How is it that there is no shame?
That you can so callously stamp out the life of some mother’s son . . .
12-year-old Tamir Rice . . . playing with a toy gun in a park
We fear for the lives of our sons.
Blacks 3 1/2 times more likely to be killed by a policeman than whites
Black men, 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites
And what is the violation, the color of their skin. . . .

Can we write a new script?
Can we turn the tide?
Can we confront reality honestly?
“This has got to be a movement, not a moment . . .”1
Black, white, hispanic, asian, human . . .
“All the colors of the race… human of course”2
“The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice.”3
We will write a new script
We will turn the tide
And we black mothers, will no longer fear when our sons merely walk in the streets.

They will make it home!

An experienced chief of party (COP) and an education specialist, Thelma Khelghati has implemented education programs in both formal and informal sectors in Africa. She has expertise in early-grade reading, teacher training, and curriculum and materials development, as well as basic education and workforce development for out-of-school youth.


1Anonymous: Comment by a woman being interviewed on the news that resonated with me.

2Source: Adoff, A. (1982.) All the colors of the race. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

3Source: Bahá’u’lláh. (2012). Hidden words. Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing.


3 Replies


Replying to:
Daniela Joseph
Beautiful, passionate and moving.

Replying to:
Tony Johnson
Since I've been publishing Our Times, there have been too many incidents of police shootings. The first one was a Black immigrant who wanted to participate in the American Dream. But he did an innocuous act that proved deadly. Reaching for his wallet should not have cost Amadou Diallo his life. 41 bullets, cops heard the echoing of gunfire and somehow thought Diallo was shooting back, ignorance, untrained and bigotry, formula for disaster!

Replying to:
Thelma Khelghati
And the killings continue. Obviously the police perceive black men as dangerous, criminal and a threat to their lives... a combination of training that needs to be changed and implicit biases. I've often wondered why the police didn't shoot to disable rather than kill. Shooting someone in the leg or arm would certainly stop them. However recently heard an interview with a police chief who said they are trained to shoot to kill... to shoot in the chest.

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