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Because I Knew You



To you, this crazy family. To us.
Because I knew you,
I know what reimagining looks like.
Or maybe what it feels like.
See, we came into this room already knowing how the ‘real stuff’ works.
Some folks call it a zero-sum game,
Other call it slavery, apartheid, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, re-segregation or just life. Reality in 2017.
Only so many points in the court, only victors and the crushed.
On this slick hardwood floor called life, your loss is my gain.
And that’s the way the ball bounces.

But because I knew you, I’ll never forget that moment
when I realized that we’d win someday—
Not us, future others, but still a part of us bound up in the struggle.
Us the people, this family of strong hearts and loud-mouthed hopes.
In a world of scarcity, fighting for all that is shattered and left behind,
we are bound to break the game.
You knew the rules, but you broke them.
Made the game falter, if only for a the faintest of seconds.
Picture that ball, spinning with sweat and fury on the wood-paneled floor,
and just for a moment, the game stuttered.
The hand twitched. The ball spins off-center,
bouncing the quiet tap of a different rhythm in the space of a raspy breath.
Because the game never envisioned the fullness of you, couldn’t handle your resistance.
Couldn’t imagine your reimaging.
Because I knew you, I’m learning to see in double vision.
at blur between now and the world just outside our eyesight.
Look for it. Wait for it. Don’t dare to blink or you’ll miss it.
The moment the refracted light splinters. at bare split second when the soul next to yours overwhelms the pixels of possibility and even your retinas’ desperate agility can’t keep up. Because we’re seeing something new. Something we haven’t even named but know at the core.
I don’t have to see it to know it’s true.
Cause I saw you and you were enough.

Because I knew you.
I saw Roslyn Pope, our doctor in residence, shining with a radiance all her own.
“We’ll just keep working on it,” that’s what you said. Cause of you, we’re seeing beyond.
I see Alma, fighting for her place under the sun. You’ll find it, cause you deserve the world.
I see it in Lila’s movements, your resilient art, the way you dance in protest.
I see it in Esra’s explosive mind, filling up whiteboards and rooms with electric brilliance.
I see it the proud way Jordan carries her body and the stories of her people.
I see it when Sabiha speaks truth through tears and laughter.

Because I knew you,
I’m also learning to hear beyond, to listen beyond vibrations for the new world you’re making.
I hear the reimagining, the ripples running against the tide.
Hear it in Mairi’s jokes and Konstantin’s Beyoncé quotes.
I hear it in David’s questioning and Ehlimana’s storytelling.
I hear it in Emily’s language, as you speak your passion for a people indestructible.
I hear it in Alex’s joyfully rebellious snapping.
I hear it in Ian’s voice, singing “A Change Is Gonna Come” and knowing that you’re not waiting You are doing it, living it, breathing it now.
Embodying all the multitudes our world hasn’t yet learned to hold.

Because I knew you,
I don’t know where we’re headed, but I know how it’ll feel if we get there.
I feel it in Roberto’s deep kindness, transcending everything in your path.
I feel it Ufuk’s and Hanan’s kinetic energy, wresting through space and time to see what kind of chaotic magic we’ll make together.
Feel it Zelma’s unstoppable joy running riot in the room and
Rukhsar’s unabashed hope, don’t you ever lose it.
Maybe when we get there, it will feel tender and whole like Pedro’s heart,
Maybe it will feel like lost hands finally finding each other in the dark.
That day when reimagining means we all come home.

Because I knew you,
No one can tell me I dreamed it up. It was too real, to alive for anyone to call it a daydream,
this world of possibility that you’re creating everyday. No denying it cause I knew you.
It’s the way that Simone’s heart leaps from the page, breaking the distance, pulling you in.
The way Malgosia’s so re ections and her Polish poets rock your world for half a second.
It’s Arlette, binding us with pipe cleaners and words, because sometimes that’s all we’ve got.
It’s Beau, going back to plant gardens and seeds of something different in Kentucky ground and Adam helping others fight for four walls and roof called theirs.
It’s Eliza, coming back every day with persistence and insistence.
It’s Darriel, keeping yourself and others alive with words that speak fire.
It’s Jaz at the podium, heels and all, energy radiating through the mic.

Speak truth to the power, or really, screw their power and speak your own.
It’s Priya at the whiteboard with Dr. Hooker, making math subversive, “Can I have that marker?”
It’s Chandra, showing me how to transgress boundaries with library cards, museums, & yourself.
It’s Seung Hyun—not Daniel—your imagination and wonder woven into your plays, reminding me how good it feels to come alive.
It’s Trey, never afraid to hold space, daring to step up or step back to amplify a neighbor’s voice.

It’s Tanya, using the law to make music in this cacophonous symphony we call life.
It’s Sara, refusing to let any power on this earth steal away your joy.
Your bedrock of resistance, your grounding in hope.
Because I knew you.

Because I knew you knew.
We’ll make our home in impossible. Ok if we never get there cause maybe the march is worth it.
You tell me, “that’s just me being me. is is who I am.” But that’s it.
Your life, your voice, your full being breaking apart the smudged glass of our windowpanes until I can see outside, the unfiltered light in that space called tomorrow. Or never. Or just not yet.
Because I knew you, I can live with that.

Some say justice is like calculus, spinning on axioms and time-old equations. Some say justice is like love, a force that embraces us as quickly as it abandons. But what they didn’t tell me, what your souls had to show me,
was that justice is alive in you.

Your power, your imagining, and daredevil reimagining.
Imploding the present. Retelling the past. Touching eternity.

Because I knew you.