Shortly before the nation learned the names of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota killed by a white police officer, and Breonna Taylor, a black woman in Kentucky also killed by police, there was Ahmaud Arbery.
Video of his killing surfaced months after it happened and was met with anger and hurt. The video shows Arbery being chased and gunned down by two white men who have both been charged. The man who shot the video has also been charged.
After the video went public, NPR put out a call for people to write a poem about Ahmaud Arbery. NPR then pulled lines and portions of poems submitted to create one. Eighteen-year-old Milwaukee native Ameera Pearsall answered that call and lines from her poem were included.
She says writing the poem helped to channel her emotions over Arbery’s death.
“I just remember feeling just so choked up and angry and helpless and so sad. And I just felt like I didn’t know what to do with all that grief. And I just felt like I just couldn’t go to sleep until I wrote it,” Pearsall says.
Pearsall says that when she finished poem she felt as though a weight had been lifted from her chest. Here's her poem:
I am sorry that your life has become a metaphor.
I am sorry the only song they know to sing for you is tragedy.
Sorry they have made you more than what you were; more than what you were ever meant to be.
Sorry I cannot ask what you would have wanted.
Sorry my fingers are stained with ink while a sidewalk exists that is stained with your blood.
I am sorry that we all know your name now; that we will forget it far too soon.
I am sorry that your story was written for you; that we have made you the hero of a battle you never got to choose.
I am sorry they still insist that justice is blind when we know she just does not exist for us.
I am sorry that we cannot do more; that all I can do is write this poem; that I do not know enough to do more.
I am sorry that it doesn’t matter that I am sorry.
I am sorry that I have made this about me.
I am sorry that this is not enough; will never be enough.
I am sorry.
I am sorry.
I am sorry.
Pearsall says that after video of Arbery being killed went public, a lot of people began to do things in his name. For example, “I run with Maud” started trending. Still, she says, it all seemed so superficial.
“This man, countless men and countless women have lost their lives in this way and it’s just like all we can do is make a hashtag,” Pearsall says.
Since Arbery’s death, we’ve seen protests across the country, mainly over police brutality sparked by Floyd's killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Pearsall says she has both helped organize a protest and participated in others.
“I think it’s important for our voices to be heard. And it’s important to show solidarity and to just do that as part of a community and staying united in shared beliefs and fighting for what we believe in and working toward a better future,” Pearsall says.
Pearsall is a 2020 graduate of Divine Savior Holy Angels. She says it was there that she learned to “pray with her feet.”
“The idea of like work and putting in effort and actually like manifesting what you want to see, that really stuck with me,” Pearsall says.
She says she wants to see a world where she is not judged based solely on the fact that she’s black.
“Like, when I’ve lived in mostly white neighborhoods it hasn’t felt safe just because I’ve known that I am not welcomed or that I have to prove myself or just constantly feeling like you have to be on your best behavior,” Pearsall says.
Now is the time to realize as a society that we can and we should do better, she says.
“We’re here because of choices ... People in power made choices and then people supported those people in power. We’re here because of choices and we can choose to not be here. We can choose to turn another leaf. We can choose to go a different direction. We can choose to do better,” Pearsall says.