My first protest (or how then shall we live?)

Originally written as a spoken word poetry piece and performed in Taos, NM.


I woke up this mornin’ with my mind,

Stayed on Jesus.


He said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


He said,

“This scripture is fulfilled in it’s hearing.”


I put on my marching shoes.

Fill a bottle full of water.

Pull a pizza box out of the trash can,

Grab a marker on the way out the door.


“What do I write?” I think

“Jesus loves the poor?”

“No…. not very catchy.”

“Jesus loves the immigrant, the homeless, the refugee?”


“Jesus was a feminist?”



“I’ll wait and see what the other signs say.”

“I can write it later.”

Cardboard under my arm,

marker in my pocket,

I make my way through the door.


I can hear the crowd as I get closer to the capital.

Knees weak,

Palms sweaty,

Bullhorns and loud chanting already.

Am I ready?

Should I even be here?


Does anyone else here

Look like

Talk like

Walk like me?


I’m a white-collar guy

With a masters degree.

I’ve got the mayor’s office on speed dial,

City councilors on my job-reference list.

I build relationships with the rich,

and funnel those into charity.


I’m standing on the curb now,

As the march takes to the street.

“What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!” Chants the crowd.

What does justice even mean?


What if justice affects me?

Do I have to give up my privilege? My comfort? My security?

What is security?


“What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!”

Do I take to the streets?


If I take to the streets will it hurt our cause?

“If those in power see me out here, will they think I stand with them?” asks my ego.


“Look at them,” they say, “They’re so angry, so upset, always opposing everything.”

Do we always have to OPPOSE everything?

Couldn’t we be FOR something?

Couldn’t we CREATE something?


“What do we want? Justice!” Chants the crowd.

Do I stand with them? Don’t I stand with them?


This bank president wants to give our charity $25k.

As he’s signing the check, he tells me,

“The arts district is the gold standard in community based progressive development.”

“You mean the same arts district,

that is the pioneer

in the fastest gentrifying zip code in the state?” I think.


I smile. I nod. I say nothing.

How do I say something

with a fat check dangling in front of me?


I woke up this morning with my mind,

Stayed on Jesus.


He said,

“It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,

than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God..”


He said,

“Blessed are the poor, for they will inherit the earth..”


I’m still on the curb,

And the crowd is moving down the street.

This blank sign is growing restless beneath my arm.

“What do I write?” I think.

“What do their signs say?”


I look around,

“This is what community looks like.”

“That’s pretty good,” I think.


“What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!”

The crowd grows louder,

But I’m still on the side.

“I should have brought a lawn chair,” I think.


I lock eyes with a young girl skipping down the street.

Probably eight years old, shoes untied.

Big bright eyes bulge from her dark brown face.

She follows behind her mother,

What does her sign say?

“America has never been America to me.”


“What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!”

What do our times need?

What do our times demand of me?


Risky or tame?

Subversive or ordained?

Prophets or preachers?

Priests or Presidents?

Deconstructors or Reconstructors?

Faithful or Effective?

Adjusted or Maladjusted?


Disrupters, troublemakers, builders dreamers.

What do our times need?

Service providers or advocates?

Can a service provider be an advocate?

Is it time to speak truth to power or nuzzle right up to power?


Offer a tax deduction, they call you a saint.

Demand a tax hike, they call you a sinner.


Pharisees, Sadduccees, Essenes, Zealots

Is there another way?

Could there be another way?


“The end of empire is the end of the desire for empire.”

This line haunts me, as I take my pizza box,

And fashion it into a seat.


“What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!”


“How then shall we live?” I think.

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