What Are We Doing With Our Breath?


By: Kyle Colley

It was one second semester Thursday as I was sitting in the King International Chapel for our weekly Crown Forum convocation, when a speaker (still to this day I wish I could recall his name) in the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death, posed a question to the audience of matriculating collegiates, that has had an everlasting impact on how I use my time effectively.

The Speaker sparked the crowd with this statement, “ As the officer choked Garner down to the ground in his last few breaths, he said I can’t breathe. So today I come to ask you all, what are you doing with your breath!”

What an important question to ask a large group of intellectual African American students, students that W.E.B. Dubois would label the “talented tenth.” But that’s not just a great question to instill into our minds, that’s a question that should be ask to the world. “What are you doing with your breath,” ponder that question for a minute and understand the entirety of it, in a world where just last week a 15-year-old unarmed girl wearing a bikini! (might I emphasis) was heinously assaulted by yet another oppressive police officer.

The word that I have stumbled on for this everlasting situation with abusive police officer is inefficient. It is inefficient, that the police department has built such a resentful relationship with African Americans, that they are not even seen as humans that “protect and serve,” but as more of a rival gang that uses more deathly force than the counterpart gang on the same streets. It is inefficient, that Africans Americans would rather handle a dangerous situation on their own, because they believe they have more protection within that dangerous situation than to phone a police officer that could escalate their own percentage chance of survival. It is inefficient, that fear is one of the most common words you hear to associate with protectors of the streets.

How come as humans, we feel safer to look down when we see officers, rather than wanting to acknowledge them for their service? Yet we would openly allow any and all army soldiers to jump the entire Starbucks line without questions asked. Why do we only become cautious behind the wheel when we look in our rearview mirror and see a police car behind us?

The relationship will be forever stained, unless we ask ourself the question that was presented to me that one memorable Thursday, “What are you doing with your breath?” Are you turning your head to a problem that we all are aware of? or are you being the change and the voice that the world needs to hear? I sat in a class at Spelman College, and the teacher asked a questions that could be asked to all young African Americans upon enrolling in any college, “what is your major and how do you plan to advance the race?” It’s a fundamental question because, it gives people a direction and a vision (I alluded to this in a previous blog entry) and we all must possess a definite purpose as humans, otherwise we become drifters.

We have to be accountable not only to ourselves, but also to our role models and ask, “what are you doing with your breath?” otherwise this pattern of mass yet, (some how) incognito genocide of young African American teenagers will continue. Kris Colley said it best, “When you have a lost youth, you have a lost generation.” If you are aware of what is going on, why would you put/talk yourself into harm’s way and allow your breaths to be shortened? We have to build minds faster (there is an old dutch saying,”we are too old soon and too late smart,”), otherwise our mid-life crisis’ are occurring at the ages of 9 and 10.

Martin Luther King once said, “I judge you on your own principle, not my own,” so why banter and allow the police officer the “reason” to use arm forces, when the fight has and never will be won in the streets. Kendrick Lamar alluded to this in the song “I”, “ the judge will make time,” and if you have been wronged in the streets, your chances are better in the courthouse, then you trying to plead your case from a casket, and as an optimist you should take that chance every time.

I know in 2015, people hate to read (often due to evolutionary mismatch), but would it not make more sense to know the law that the officer is violating rather than blanketly stating he is in the wrong. We have to be more aware of our breath, we have to know our competition better than they know us. How many games have you seen, where Michael Jordan and or Peyton Manning were not ready for what the defenses were about to throw at them? Don’t have that prophet effect either, and say “well that’s Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning they are athletes, I can’t be them.” Last time I checked they live the same 24 hours as you, the only difference is that they have become masters of the minute.

Where some see 60 seconds, they see 1 sec, 2 sec, 3 etc. They understand the importance of their breath, and I challenge you all, myself included, to be more conscious of our breath and seize the minute.

To conclude this in the best manner possible, I insert a quote by one of the world’s great people, Benjamin E. Mays when he said, “Just A Minute, I have only just a minute, only 60 seconds in it. Forced upon me, can’t refuse it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it. But it’s up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it, Give account if I abuse it, Just a tiny little minute, But eternity is in it. What are you going to do with your minute?

Kyle Colley is a rising sophomore political science major from Denver, Colorado who attends Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Editor: Janet Colley


2 thoughts on “What Are We Doing With Our Breath?

  1. Your insight is inspiring. I appreciate your courage. Your connection to the military is spot on. Over the years since Vietnam the relationship between the military and the public has definitely evolved for the positive. I hope the same can happen with the police. Thank you for writing and stretching.


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