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Op-ed: For Ahmaud Arbery, a prayer for the runner

I've been

saying this prayer before I was born and

It’s actually

a prayer I learned from my ancestors and

it’s a prayer

that they learned from their ancestors and

that prayer

starts with:

We are not

safe here. We are not safe. Here. But we live here and so what.

What do

you do with that? When you're not safe in a place that you live in?

You figure

it out.

You fight

for your safety. You cry. You mourn.

And you

cry again and you stand up and you figure out how to be safe.

And you

find your allies. The people that look like you. That feel like you.

The people

that remind you of what a home could be.

And you

fight with them and you fight for that home because you know you deserve something more than exists right here in front of us.

I say a

prayer. A prayer that I learned from my ancestors and it’s a prayer that they learned from their ancestors.

A prayer

that involves a call to action. A prayer that involves my deep desire for respite. A prayer that sometimes reminds me that it’s okay to go numb.

It's okay

to go numb when you have lived in a place that has sought to kill you. Has only sought to brutalize you. Has only sought to use you. Has only sought to exploit you.

This place

we call America. The United States of America.

And in a

small town in the coastal city of Georgia, there was a young man whose birthday is today.

Ahmaud Arbery.

He was a

Taurus.

Strong and

tender.

Always running.

Running always.

From passion

to placid. Always reminded that your position of power is past tense.

Everywhere

you look there are reminders to whisper your pain. Survive your torment with eggshell shoes laced up until skin is bruised. And feet are swollen.

Aching.

Ahmaud you

did not deserve this.

And I know

that you were praying that same prayer that we were taught by our ancestors. While you ran. And you ran. And I know that you were running because that’s what you do to release stress. You were running to be relieved. You were running for respite, and instead,

you ran right into white supremacists. Or rather they ran into you.

They hunted

you.

They hunted

you like they hunted our ancestors. And our ancestors, ancestors.

And so this

prayer, this prayer that I have is for you, Ahmaud.

For you

and your family and every Black person inside of Brunswick, Georgia.

I pray for

you. And I know you pray for me. And I know they pray every single day.

We pray

as a collective.

There’s

a collective prayer that we got taught from our ancestors and their ancestors.

There’s

a collective prayer and that prayer is grounded in the idea and the belief that one day we will be free.

Free from

the bondage of white supremacy. Free from the ways it makes us contort ourselves. Free from the ways that it makes us shrink ourselves.

Free from

the ways that it makes us run from ourselves.

I know we

will be free. I can feel it. I can smell it. I can see it.

And Ahmaud,

I’m so sorry you do not get to see that freedom.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry

to every single Black person shot and killed and brutalized by law enforcement, by vigilantes, be the fear and the rage of other human beings that are unable to see us for who we are.

I see us.

I know who

we are.

We are beautiful,

majestic beings.

We have

survived. We continue to survive. And I will continue to pray. The prayer we were taught by our ancestors and their ancestors.

Every. Single.

Day.

Patrisse Cullors is an artist and activist. She is the founder and chair of Reform LA Jails and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

Damon Turner is a cultural architect and the founder and CEO of Trap Heals.