By VC and AB

It was heard and seen around the world
As time elapsed, people stared at the unexplainable
While excessive force compelled pain to consume the air
“I can’t breathe!”

People gathered by the thousands
All races around the world
Protesting for justice and equality
For every man, woman, boy, and girl
“I can’t breathe!”

Sleeping Beauty was who she was
Dreaming in a better place
Than this troubled world
Her aspirations right at her fingertips
Until that door was kicked in
And bullets left the clip
“I can’t breathe!”

Basketball games look different
Football games are not the same
Men and women stand arms linked, unified
Demanding justice and change
“I can’t breathe!”

“I can’t breathe” weren’t just words
It was a life
The kickin’ in of that door
Dismissed a beautiful young life
“I can’t breathe!”

This can’t just be a whole lot of talk
And meaningless chatter
It has to be in your heart
That… Black Lives Matter


  1. Jackie on June 22, 2021 at 1:38 PM

    For as much as read about Breonna Taylor, I never read or even thought of her as Sleeping Beauty but that is such an apt description!

  2. Patrice on June 23, 2021 at 9:42 PM


  3. Samantha on June 29, 2021 at 8:39 PM

    VC and AB,

    I LOVED this poem!!! It was so, SO good!!! I especially liked the 4th stanza, especially the lines: “Basketball games look different, Football games are not the same”. So, so true!! Thank you for vocalizing the importance of Black Lives Matter and contributing to the movement of change!

    Best regards,


  4. Bria Tolson on July 5, 2021 at 11:44 AM

    I like this poem because it was blunt and addressed an issue that is very prevalent in this country. Some people decide to get involved in activism, more specifically BLM, because they see other people doing it or its something for them to post about on their socials. However, groups like BLM are really fighting for change and the words that they are chanting are more than words. The people that really understand the BLM and civil rights movements understand that all of these issues are very real and these are things that people have to deal with on a day to day basis. Some people are really speaking from experience and trying to change things while others may not fully understand what or who they are fighting for.

  5. Brittani Forman on July 13, 2021 at 6:27 PM

    Hi VC and AB 🙂 ,
    I ADMIRE this poem and love the awareness you bring to the current situation. I like the emphasis on “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter”. It definitely has to be in your heart to believe Black Lives Matter. Hashtags and profile pictures are enough. I read this poem multiple times just to make sure I got every element. NICE job

  6. Lily on August 9, 2021 at 11:07 AM

    I really like this poem. It was worded strongly and I like how the same phrase “I can’t breathe” was repeated and in bold.

  7. Amma on August 19, 2021 at 10:23 AM

    This poem perfectly encapsulates the urgency that change is needed. The bold at the end of each paragraph emphasizes the pain felt by the hands of police brutality. This was powerful.

  8. Adriana on August 19, 2021 at 10:33 AM

    Repetition is one of my favorite literary tools, and I really felt it in your poem. The way that you worked in a lot of recent injustices and ended with Black Lives Matter “in your heart” is a true call to action for everyone and I was filled with emotion while reading your work. I think your piece should be shared into the world to help people wake up, and your writing is going to make an impact on anyone who reads it.

  9. Sophie on August 19, 2021 at 10:34 AM

    VC and AB,
    WOW. Oh my goodness this is so so so so good. The last stanza… holy wow. I’m speechless–or whatever the writing equivalent of that is. I come from the whitest state in the country, Maine, therefore my childhood was very sheltered and I was oblivious to the inherent racism in our country. I just never understood why people would think less of someone because of their skin color, it simply didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t, but now I see it happening all around. From backhanded comments to blatant insults and prejudice. Then the recent videos of police brutality came out. It’s disgusting. I don’t get it. They could’ve just gotten up, just let him breathe, he was defenseless. I still don’t understand how anyone would do that and they deserve to be locked up. Your message is so important and so amazingly worded and presented. I’m honored to read it. BLM

  10. Skylar Seeley on August 24, 2021 at 3:19 PM

    This is a very powerful poem. I thoroughly enjoyed your rhyme scheme and the message behind it. The last paragraph was a work of art and something that should be published. Your poems speak volumes and it would be a great disservice to everyone involved if you discontinued your writing! Stay strong.

  11. Mona Villesvik on September 20, 2021 at 3:25 PM


    This poem truly moved me. I appreciate and admire the way that you honored victims of police brutality. The repeating line of “I can’t breathe” was very powerful, especially the way that you acknowledged that “I can’t breathe” weren’t just words, but real people, and real lives. Thank you for your words.

    – Mona

  12. nisha on October 17, 2021 at 4:21 PM

    This is one of my favorite poems I have read so far. You expressed Sleeping Beauty (as Breonna Taylor), and the Black Lives Matter protest. It is unfortunate after years of discrimination, that we are in a place where acceptance is still not fully there. The message you gave in this poem is very vital for everyone to understand and the repeated phrases give an emphasis on how important it is.

  13. Gitta Rogers on October 17, 2021 at 5:16 PM

    I love this poem! Just reading it makes me think about how and why this issue is very important to be aware of. My favorite part of this poem is when you put emphasis on the line, ‘I can’t breathe’. Those three words make your poem more powerful.

  14. Anna on October 17, 2021 at 5:24 PM

    This poem perfectly encapsulates the urgency that change is needed. Some people are really speaking from experience and trying to change things while others may not fully understand what or who they are fighting for. By bolding the lines of every last sentence, this emphasizes the pain felt by police brutality. This was a powerful poem.

  15. ahvuhnee on October 17, 2021 at 6:28 PM

    This is very powerful and poignant! The emphasis on the repetition of I cant breathe was very moving, great job!

  16. ken on November 5, 2021 at 4:59 PM

    Wow, this was an amazing read! You put so much emotion into it and made sure that the readers felt what you were feeling. Keep up the amazing writing!!

  17. Nina Austria on November 9, 2021 at 9:07 PM

    This poem is so beautifully written; thank you for bringing attention to BLM. Thank you for saying that this shouldn’t be “meaningless chatter” or “just words”, but rather something that should remain in our hearts.

  18. Francisco Salinas on December 12, 2021 at 8:09 PM

    Hi VC and AB. I found it really unique that two people were working together on a poem. It honestly is the first time in my life where I have seen that. And I love this poem. I believe that saying “It has to be in your heart” was important to conclude, since it differentiates those that truly believe in black lives matter, to those that do not. I always liked to think that if we were figuratively heading towards a utopia, the end of prejudice and racism has to end. I think it is the way you both articulated “I can’t breathe!” that serves as anticipation for the final breath of the beautiful young life. It was scary to read. I believe you both have captured how our culture felt different after these events, as basketball and football games were no longer the same. I would like to thank you both for covering this.

  19. Brook on December 13, 2021 at 6:43 PM

    Thank you for writing this poem, I think that this poem is so important to show us that sometimes good things can come from horrible things. We need to come together to make real change, and we are capable of it if we never forget. Don’t stop writing, the best to you.

  20. Megan McTaggart on February 17, 2022 at 1:29 PM

    This reminds me of the song, I Can’t Breathe by H.E.R. obviously because of the name but also because it’s a call to not let the moments of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor be moments, but to be revolutions until we see change.

  21. Adrian on February 27, 2022 at 6:47 PM

    Hi VC and AB,

    This poem is incredibly powerful. I think many of us have woken up and have put our efforts together to stand up and demand justice and reform of a system… a system where Black Lives Matter. For too long, this issue has been ignored. But, as you illustrate in your poem, the gun violence has always been there in the background. The world has been living in ignorance of all the hurt that has been happening. This is truly inspirational!

  22. Ryanne on April 24, 2022 at 11:59 AM

    This poem is so powerful and speaks volumes to the societal problems seen in todays world. I think this poem is so blunt and straight forward that it depicts a perfect picture in the readers head. This truly depicted the picture of todays society and the great problems seen by individuals of all races. Great job!

  23. Farah on April 28, 2022 at 11:07 AM

    Deeply powerful – this poem gave me chills. I love your use of structure and repetition, it really drives the point home. This is such an important message. Thank you for your advocacy.

  24. PA on May 13, 2022 at 7:45 PM

    This is so good. Rhythmic perfection. The passion in your message shines through. This country has a long way to go to achieve equality. Poems like yours can help inspire and change people’s minds. Keep writing and pouring this passion into your words.

  25. Amelia on October 31, 2022 at 9:47 AM

    This poem is very powerful and I truly enjoyed reading it. I loved the repeating of the phrase “I can’t breathe” it truly displays the message and passion of the poem. Thank you for writing so beautifully about this topic, I hope you both continue to write!

  26. Mark on February 19, 2023 at 5:59 PM

    The way that you worked in many recent injustices and ended with Black Lives Matter “in your heart” is an actual call to action for everyone and I was filled with emotion while reading your work. I think your piece should be shared with the world to help people wake up, and your writing will impact anyone who reads it.

  27. eleni on February 19, 2023 at 9:49 PM

    This is an extremely emotional, moving, and powerful poem. The issue of racism in America is unfortunately so prominent, it’s hard to know where to even start when discussing it. This poem with its incredible writing portrays such a strong message. The line “ “I can’t breathe’ weren’t just words, it was a life” are so incredibly real and powerful. Speaking out about these kinds of things is what we all need to do, in hopes of a better tomorrow. You are seen and you are heard, and I hope one day we can make things right. Until then, keep doing what you are doing, because it truly does make a difference.

  28. Hannah on April 15, 2023 at 5:38 PM

    I really like this poem. I like how you care calling out all of the different instances of hate while showing how one thing can start a fire under a country.

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