My Brothers, This Is Personal
—I see you breathe. I say your names.

“I know now what I didn’t know then: black men are rarely honored on purpose. And if they are, their honor comes late—and rarely by anyone other than other black men or women.”
– Ashlee Eiland, Human(kind)

I see you, little boy.

Your feet are dangling over the stream at Big Spring Park. You watch your reflection. You stir the water with a stick you found, like all little boys do.

I don’t know your name.

But you are here and I see you.

Others are not here today.

But I know their names.

And I see them. Vauntez. And Isaiah. And Kameron. You are little Black boys, too. You read me your sight words and tell me your stories and make me laugh out loud.

I see your faces and hear your voices and feel your hugs.

I also see my godson Chris and my co-volunteer Steve and my former Sunday school student Jeffrey. Once little boys, you’ve grown into young Black men. You’ve made it this far in America living in a Black body. You still breathe strong. You are smart and bold and powerful.

I see your faces and hear your voices and feel your hugs.

I also see Black men my age. Barrion and Nate and Rydel. You’ve accumulated years of experiences yet remain full of love and Jesus and compassion. You inspire me. You brighten the world with all you are.

I see your faces and hear your voices and feel your hugs.

And I see Black men a generation older. I see Mr. Ewing, my first Black principal when I am in 3rd grade at the beginning of school integration. Mr. Bradley, my unyielding yet tender Black principal in 12th grade. Mr. Turner, my friend and prayer partner in public housing battling cancer. I don’t know your backstories of living with racism for a lifetime. Could I handle it if I did?

I see your faces and hear your voices and feel your hugs.

To my brothers, this is personal. I honor you. I love you and I’ve been loved by you.

I say your names.

But . . .

  • I don’t want to say your name in a hashtag, like #sayhisnamegeorgefloyd.
  • I don’t want to see your face on a poster or on the news-of-the-day.
  • I don’t want to watch your body on the ground with a knee on your neck.

I want to see you breathing. I want you here and alive and unharmed until God ushers you home on his time, not man’s time.

Your life matters to me. 

To you, little boy with the stick in the water, I’m watching you. And watching out for you. You already understand too soon why everywhere here is shouting together.

I shout today alongside your daddy who brought you here:

“No justice, no peace. I can’t breathe. Black lives matter.”

You already get it more than I do.

But today I don’t talk to you. My mouth is covered with a mask. But my eyes are open.

I hope I see you a few years from now, too. Living your dreams. Laughing with friends. Loving your family.

You matter.

And I see you.

You say names, too.

52 thoughts on “My Brothers, This Is Personal
—I see you breathe. I say your names.

  1. ~ linda

    Oh Lisa, I have chills up and down my whole body! Yes, I, too, see black children, black youth, black adults, and I say their names and love on them and teach them and hug them and pray for them. I also want to see their chest raising and lowering because they have breath. I want to see them achieve their dreams. And it is not just those with black skin but those with brown skin and all shades of flesh who are downtrodden by others who think they are better, think they know more. I weep with them each and all. I also love, or am desiring to love, as God loves me. Powerful post, dear friend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We weep together, friend. I know you have a real love for people of all ages and skin tones. I keep thinking about the crayons on your blog post, all labeled “flesh.” Yes, may we learn to love as God loves.

  2. Yvonne Chase

    Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation. I was listening to a podcast yesterday by a white host whose name escapes me at the moment, however, she encouraged her white friends and family to gather together and fight this battle on their own. She said it’s fine to join the marches of black people but how much more powerful would it be if we, white people realize that what’s happening to them is wrong and we decide to fight for them in their absence…on our own…in our neighborhoods, etc.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If you remember the name of that podcaster, please pass it along to me, Yvonne. I’d love to listen. She’s right that we have such work to do among our own families and friends of fellow white people. That’s where I get the most pushback, people who don’t understand that #BlackLivesMatter isn’t a threat to their own life continuing to matter.

      With each black man and woman who die, I think *this* time will wake people up. Yet change doesn’t come. But maybe *this* time it will? It feels like the whole world is more focused now, after George Floyd’s death and on the heels of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor’s deaths, than ever before on really battling racial reconciliation. But first we need awareness and repentance from the white side, as uncomfortable as that makes people.

  3. Laurie

    What a beautiful, moving post, Lisa. It brought tears to my eyes. Good for you for having the courage to speak out on this controversial topic and to march for racial justice. The country needs more good people like you.

    When I was running today, I saw “Say their names” written in chalk on the bike path below my house, followed by names of POC killed by the police. It went on for half a mile. I had to stop and walk. Tears were flowing.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That makes me cry just imagining that half mile you walked and read names, Laurie. Saying names is so powerful because it’s so personal. Each one created in the image of God. These deaths are so unnecessary. 🙁

      We drew chalk flowers and animals on the sidewalk this weekend with our granddaughter here. And wrote our names, never once having to consider what else that could mean…

  4. Linda Stoll

    This, right here, says it all, Lisa –>’My mouth is covered with a mask. But my eyes are open.’

    May we continue to cultivate a culture of openness, of listening well, of open hearts.

    May God heal when trust has been broken and evil has been done.

    Only God …

  5. Michele Morin

    I will add the name of my son’s best friend, Rohobot, born in Ethiopia, raised in predominantly white Maine. He is a godly young man and will likely have his share of struggles bringing to two parts of his identity together. So grateful for the privilege of seeing him grow up, seeing him plow into cinnamon rolls and breakfast pizza here in my home, just seeing him.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for your encouragement, Ashley. Ready or not, we send our thoughts out into the world, even with our insecurities, and let them land where they will.

  6. Carlie

    Thank you, Lisa! Your post really touched me. As a Caribbean mom to a young, black man who lives in America, I pray that he is seen. . . that all our little black boys are fully seen and assured that their lives really do matter. Thank you for seeing and caring!

  7. junieper/jesh

    Lisa, saw your thumbnail face of your comment, so happy! So, it’s not a surprise you know God who makes you smile:) A post well thought out, and words of honor and appreciation for the one who do not know us. Thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for stopping by. I pray that God will leave a strong mark on all of us so that we can treat each other with the respect that each person deserves, the way God created us to treat each other.

  8. Jeanne Takenaka

    Lisa, your words bring tears to my eyes and tightness to my throat. Your words and your heart are beautiful. May we all seek to see those who are deemed invisible. May we affirm their lives and their dreams.

    I’m pondering your words today.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Jeanne. Your comment make me think back to how I grew up so privileged; my life and dreams were affirmed by so many. I pray that same privilege will be known by everyone.

      May the Lord bring change quickly.

  9. Lauren

    Yes to seeing, yes to listening, yes to having the grace to seek understanding and the courage to speak out … this IS personal! Thank you for contributing such beautiful and powerful words to the conversation, Lisa. Our voices can make a difference!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate you adding your voice too, Lauren!

      Isn’t it strange that listening sounds like one of the easiest things we could do, yet sometimes it’s the hardest. I need to be a more attentive listener.

  10. A spirit of simplicity

    Your words brought tears to my eyes. I see them too. I pray that we no longer live in a world where we say the names of murdered black men but instead, we honor the names of black boys and black men by allowing them to live in a world where they don’t have to be afraid to go jogging, or eat Skittles, or play in their yards, or sleep in their beds, or breathe…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It is heartbreaking to have to add all those exclusions to what black people can’t do freely, even including sleeping in their beds. 🙁 Lord, have mercy on us all.

      I love what you shared on your blog:

      “Right here in Proverbs 31…the very place where so many women look to know how to be a Christian woman God tells us to speak for the poor and the helpless and ensure justice for those being crushed.” May we take this to heart.

  11. Suzette Katopodes

    Wow! Lisa, thank you for making me think. I haven’t written on this subject yet, I’m embarrassed to say. But you have written from that heart and given us all an example of how it should be done. Thank you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We all have different work and different ways of responding so don’t feel bad if you haven’t written about it, Suzette. More importantly is how we’re living and speaking up and treating each other in our in-person relationships. The day-to-day stuff is critical.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I do wonder what was going through this little boy’s mind. What he’ll remember when he’s older. What his own experiences have been like. Praying we make improvements in the world for him and all people of color.

  12. Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)

    This is beautiful and such a powerful reminder that black lives matter; that each and every person deserves to be able to live a life without fear, without discrimination and to be seen as a human being just like any other. Thank you for sharing this and making me think. #WotW

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love the revolution that appears to be taking place as each of us see, listen, and learn wherever we are. Praying that the Lord will transform us each in the places we need the most. Thanks, Laura.

  13. April J Harris

    This is such an important post, Lisa. You’ve written from the heart and said things that desperately need to be said. There is much to be done, but with encouragement like this, there is true hope. Well done, and so many thanks for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for the encouraging words, April. I know all our hearts are hurting when we think about people we know and people we don’t know who have been suffering.

      I appreciate your faithfulness in hosting the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

  14. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    This is so beautiful! It reminds me of a mother interviewed by the newspaper just after September 11, 2001, who said that when she explained to her preschooler what happened, he said, “Why don’t we just tell them our names? Maybe we could be friends.” It’s really a very deep and logical idea that they couldn’t stand to smash and burn us if they knew us as real people. And it’s a huge white privilege that white Americans had just that brief season of feeling so threatened, by people from the other side of the world–whereas African-Americans have felt that threatened, all their lives, by their own fellow citizens. If only we’d all just listen to their names, know them as real people each a unique facet of the image of God, how could we possibly allow them to be treated as they have been?!?

    Thank you for sharing some names of Black lives that matter right now, that are still going on right now. May those lives get better, fairer, and more respected from now on!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your words here, Becca! Knowing people as individual image-bearers, as souls with names, can definitely move us to seeing each other in more loving ways.

      I also appreciate all the info you shared on your blog with the links from Anaïs FB post. It can get overwhelming with so much work ahead in abolishing racism in our culture, but we can all pick one thing and work at it.

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