When I was asked to write a piece for Downstage Arts, I thought what I would write would come easily. It didn’t. I hit writer’s block and though I knew what I wanted to say, I didn’t know how to say it—until I was watching part of the Derek Chauvin trial, so soon after the March 16 shooting in Atlanta. My heart was heavy thinking again about the injustice in George Floyd’s death, and then about the eight deaths in Atlanta. I started writing, and out of the grief I felt at that moment came most of this poem.
I want to make it clear that I still have much to learn about anti-racism, and that this poem is just as much of a call to action to me as it is to anyone else. Just because I am Asian, does not mean that I am off the hook for anti-racism work. It is something I am still trying to be more aware of and better about in my life.
In the poem, Part I is addressed primarily to my BIPOC brothers and sisters. Part II is primarily addressed to our white allies, but also people of color, since anti-racism work is work that applies to all of us.
oh weary soul,
your eyes are worn from witnessing trauma,
your voice is hoarse from crying for mercy,
your lungs are weak from gasping for a moment of
after one storm comes another,
and i know you feel like you’re
how many more?
down your cheeks.
how many more will suffer
before justice is achieved?
oh dear soul,
this should never have been your burden to bear--
the problems are vast
and their roots run far too deep for you to uproot alone.
remember to share the work.
remember to breathe.
remember to rest.
oh resilient soul,
though you cannot uproot it alone,
never underestimate yourself.
though others may try to invalidate you
and refuse to make space for you,
never allow yourself
to be made
let your roots grow deep in the soil--
fill up your lungs,
set your gaze to the light,
and awaken change.
we beg you not to overpower our cries
with pointed fingers and retorts.
but rather we call upon you
to listen and support.
now is not the time
to prove you’re “right,”
to undermine our fight,
to extinguish our light.
rather, dear allies,
now is the time
to see us and meet us
with a listening ear,
with a compassionate mind,
with a heart that bleeds for us.
but most of all,
it is not the time to not be silent.
is more deafening
than the taunts & jeers of oppressors.
we beg you to arise,
and to simply have
for it is from the roots of empathy that grows into action,
and out of action blossoms
Hannah Kato (she/her/hers) is a Chicagoland actor, and currently double majoring in Musical Theatre and Acting at North Central College in Naperville. Most recently, she was a part of a workshop for the new musical Mill Girls, and then played Diana in North Central’s production of I Love You Because. She has a deep passion for storytelling, especially stories that encourage racial diversity in the arts. Instagram: @hannah.kato