• Irma Herrera

July 4th Refleciones


As we observe the birth of our nation, the July 4th holiday, my heart is heavy as I think of friends who have lost loved ones due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even if we have not lost anyone close to us, we hear and read the stories of the thousands of people in life and death struggles at home, in hospitals, at nursing homes, in jails and prisons and detention facilities. ALL of us are united in our high levels of fear, dread, and anxiety. The pandemic has brought so much pain and loss: personal, emotional, and financial. Black and brown people are, as always, the hardest hit.

Our nation is in the throes of much-needed and delayed reckoning about the distorted and false narrative we were taught, especially as concerns race and all the laws and policies designed to keep black and brown people in positions of subordination. The level of ignorance boggles the mind: last night, at Mt. Rushmore, Trump supporters yelling at Native American protesters/treaty defenders: go back to where you came from.

The death of George Floyd and other black men and women has unleashed a level of activism that is astounding. There were more than 4,700 demonstrations during the recent Black Lives Matter protests, an average of 140 per day. Estimates suggest there as many as 26 million people have participated, making this the largest mass movement in our nation's history. Read the full report on this here. And these protests continue, and they aren't stopping. My neighborhood holds a silent vigil that lines our street every Monday evening. All this activism is also a form of patriotism and will propel us forward to help create the fair and just country I wish to live in.

This period of disruption has also unleashed enormous creativity: murals, paintings, songs, essays, video, poetry. As I wrote the word "disruption", I flashed on how disruption is typically heralded with admiration and awe in the world of business (think Amazon, eBay, PayPal, airbnb, uber) but often harshly condemned when the disruption forces us to examine inconvenient truths about our nation and who we are and how we got here.

But back to art, which often captures -- in images, in words, in sounds -- what we feel but can’t quite say. I am happy to share this poem with the permission of my friend Celenia Delsol, who wrote it. This link to her blog (click here) has the audio version with Celenia reading her poem.

All Lives [Never] Matter[ed]

by Celenia Delsol

What is this uproar

Of “All Lives Matter”?

As if all of them ever did?

As if those first white-faced arrivals

Cared about the natives

Whose land they stole,

Whose women they raped,

Whose children they infected

With lethal diseases –

As if all lives mattered then.

As if the African people –

Ripped from their continent

Shipped like livestock,

Sold like chattel,

Enslaved to build up

A Republic that failed

To even recognize

Five fifths of their personhood –

As if all lives mattered then.

As if the brown babies

Housed in cages

Crying for their Mamis

Who were carried across the border

To escape worse horrors

With the dream of growing up

In the fantasy of America –

As if all lives mattered then.

Oddly, all lives matter

When they’re in the womb

Before race is revealed,

Before mouths want food

And souls make demands;

Funny how

All lives matter then!

All lives don’t matter

Even when they are

“Essential workers”

When they drive the buses,

Stock the shelves,

Nurse the sick

At their own peril

Without essential gear,

As if all lives matter.

All lives don’t matter

When the plague strikes hard

In nursing homes

(the old and dying),

In private prisons

(criminals),

In meat processing plants

(immigrants)

In black and brown neighborhoods

(no white people there!)

All lives don’t matter!

I dare you to tell me

“All lives matter,”

When taxpayers’ dollars

Go to the 1%

While the working men,

Women and children,

Move into their cars,

Get in line for food.

Do their lives matter?

Don’t get in my face

With “All Lives Matter!”

Don’t question my rage

Or B.L.M. placard,

Don’t act high and mighty

And holier than thou

As if my focus

On these BLACK lives

Makes ME a racist.

(Because what you think

doesn’t matter).

Are you familiar

With emergency triage?

If it’s losing blood

Or CAN’T BREATHE

You tend to it first;

Unless, of course,

You’re a white cop

Taking a knee

On a black man’s neck.

Do you feel me now?

If only all lives mattered!

[Meanwhile, lest we forget…]

Months ago,

When the Amazon blazed

The rainforest cried,

“I CAN’T BREATHE!”

Alarms clamored:

“The Amazon Matters!”

(Not: “All Trees Matter!”

Do you see the difference?)

Focus attention

Where the need is acute.

Because it matters!

And remember this:

If the “lungs of the planet”

Cease to work,

None of this,

Not one of us,

Black, brown or white,

Will matter.

Two more pieces of creative expression that also spoke loudly to me.












Let us all do our part to end the two pandemics our nation is facing: Covid-19 and racism.


By all means, please send along any art that speaks loudly to you; I'd love to see what moves you.


Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and Celenia's poem.


Si se puede.

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© 2016 Irma Herrera