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A prayer by Revd Canon Jeremy Blunden and Revd Dr Rosalyn reciting the poem “I Cannot Breathe” by Oyin Oladipo.

A prayer by Revd Canon Jeremy Blunden and Revd Dr Rosalyn reciting the poem “I Cannot Breathe” by Oyin Oladipo.

Bishop John talks to the Revd Dr Rosalyn, Vicar of Longford and she recites the poem “I Cannot Breathe” by Oyin Oladipo.

The full text of the poem is below.

Also, we wanted to draw your attention to some other important contributions that have been made at this time:

  • The Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement earlier this week which you can read here
  • The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover and now also Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Rochester,  spoke on BBC Radio Kent. Please listen here.
  • Bishop James shares his personal reflections arising from the recent killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. You can read it here. It draws on his work over the last seven years in seeking to foster BAME presence in senior Church of England roles.

“I Cannot Breathe”

by Oyin Oladipo


Strip me of this accursed Black skin, I want to live in peace!
I watched this video with emotions I can’t describe.
But, American why?  England, why?
I watched this fully aware that I am Black, living in a White world.
I am Black, in a white college.
I am Black, in a white country.
I am Black – and to many I am wrong!
For this, I cannot breathe.

For how long will this injustice prevail?
Slavery, oppression, repression, murder… genocide.
Does God ever curse the oppressors of His people?
Or, does He simply look away?
If this is the God of the Exodus, isn’t it time he drowns Pharaoh?
Isn’t it time he destroys Pharaoh’s army of brutal oppressors?
If only for a moment, to allow me to take the breath of life.

But, nay – this white-washed, blue-eyed Jesus
  appears to side with the oppressors – is He the oppressor!
They have changed the hew of his skin,
  changed His hair and changed the colour of eyes.
He belongs to them, and they are His oppressors.
How can I believe when I cannot breathe?

I cry at the death of my people.
I weep beneath the weight of hopelessness
   of being brown, labelled black, somehow – being born wrong.
Strip me please, strip this accursed melanin off of me;
for a chance to live in peace,
I’ll willingly shed this skin,
for a chance to breathe.

But, I cannot breathe,
   my life is like a wobbly, fluttering flame to be snuffed out.
I have no power, I cannot breathe;
I die daily at the hands of those who hold the guns,
   who hold the power, who hold the wealth, who hold the Bible.

I cannot breathe, because I am Black,
this White man’s knee remains ever constant on my neck,
   blocking my airways, stifling my screams, ignoring my pleas,
I cannot breathe.

I cannot breathe, I cannot breathe.
God of my ancestors – where are you?
God of the heavens where are you?
As for this blue-eyed Jesus,
   He and his comrades, they are silent,
And, their eyes have looked away.


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