Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

#ICantBreathe: Flashback Friday Poetry “Moving Back Home” the brother was breathing…

Many years ago I was in an African heritage healing group and we used conscious breathing techniques, or breathwork, to heal the internalized effects of racism. During that period, I wrote a poem called “Moving Back Home.”

In this historical moment, I can’t help but think about the fact that many black people live with different levels of fear and trauma that keep us from breathing deeply and fully inhabiting our breath and our lives. One of the sayings of the African American breathwork group was “Black people do breathe.” The recent chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of the New York police has people using the hashtag #ICantBreathe and reflecting on all the ways racism chokes us daily. It chokes us in microaggressions that are barely noticeable to all but their target. Racis also chokes us in deadly force that cannot be denied.

This poem is about the battle that many black men wage to fully inhabit their bodies, breathing, unafraid, and fully grounded in their right to be alive.


Moving Back Home


The brother was breathing

no I mean he was really breathing

like he expected to live or something


I don’t mean hovering a few feet above himself

looking around to see if the coast was clear

to come back in

hand on his gun/his pager/his money/his crotch

fingers unfeeling

toes devoid of sensation in his hundred dollar sneakers


I mean he was in it

not posing for some Vibe magazine cover

retro Blaxploitation flick

& we all wave our dollar bills & want to buy some

just as sure as whitefolks did when he was

on the auction block not so long ago




I mean he was in his body

like no one else had a deed to it

& he was breathing & it was beautiful to see


I want to affirm all the men who are taking up residence

not just in the mind/the eye/the head of the penis

but the whole body


Did you know that in the African American community

there is a church on nearly every corner

& it is a Black man’s body?


I salute all of the bothers who are

sanctifying themselves

with consciousness & breath & self-love


This is for the brothers who are not afraid to be afraid

are big enough to cry

who holler at the demons instead of their children

beat on pillows instead of their women

who tell the truth no matter how ugly

who hold themselves & each other

despite how we punish them for it–faggot/sissy/punk


There is nothing wrong with men being

sensitive or emotional

or gay or straight or authentic or liberated

or awake in their bodies

& the belief that strong emotions

other than rage & desire

are for women only

is more deadly than bombs or bullets or police batons

in the war against men of color


Brothers say you gotta be hard to survive

but you gotta soften back up

if you want to survive surviving

What good is it to get out alive if you can’t live or love?


So I salute all the brothers

who are doing the healing work

This is a shout out to



& alla the brothers from FREE MY PEOPLE

& the SASHA Breathwork Posse

& Narcotics Anonymous & Alcoholics Anonymous

& alla the other 12-step programs

& the young brothers

in Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center

& the brothers in therapy

& the brothers in HIV+ support groups

& the brothers in detox

& the brothers at City of Refuge

& the brothers at Olivet

& the brothers in re-evaluation co-counseling

& all the brothers who have ever thrown themselves on the mercy of Spirit

with a passion & a willingness to be healed–

I love you


but most of all

love yourselves

reclaim your bodies



keep breathing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on December 12, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

Upcoming Appearances

No upcoming events

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,802 other subscribers

Aya wins first place Independent Publisher Awards for UPTOWN THIEF, THE BOSS, THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS

%d bloggers like this: