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From Pandemic to Protest

Tori Collins is a native Chicagoan who lives and works in DC. Currently an unpublished writer, she hopes to self-publish her work in the very near future and she is also working on a new podcast, “I’m Not Telling Stories.” She wrote the poem below “as COVID-19 and the protest defending Black lives after George Floyd’s murder intersected, causing our community to take a closer look at racial inequities.” She performed it recently at a reading at Busboys and Poets (socially distanced, she notes, and her mask went back on as soon as she’d finished!).

This poem first appeared in the August 2020 print issue of the Hill Rag. Since then, Collins has created this very powerful video in which she recites her work over an amazing montage of images.

~Karen Lyon

From Pandemic to Protest

Black Lives are lost and we march, counting the cost, amidst a pandemic

DuBois calculated the cost of liberty and the receipts from lost Black lives confirm

Repression, suppression, oppression still cost more

Images of grief disrupts our peace

That passes all understanding

And we still cannot comprehend, thus, we ask, why?

Why does anyone have to die?

But the question morphs into why does anyone have to die like this?


A knee to the neck


Socially Distanced

Shot in cold blood

Without answers and without regrets

Cardiac Arrested


No charges

No convictions

From drive-by testing to random racially profiled traffic stops

No mask

Uncovered mouths, covered eyes

Bird watching for 5 in Central Park


‘tis the great equalizer as told by Duggard

no matter how good or bad your life

how wealthy or poor your life

how old or young your life

Your Life

Death will come

You’ve checked all the boxes to be counted

Socioeconomic status, Race, Zip code

These may extend your life but death still comes

America, the land of retaliation, cancel culture and the land of hiding in plain sight

Still no vaccination in sight

We continue to fight

We fought for Founding Father’s Freedom

We fight for equity in health that has nothing and everything to do with wealth

We fight for lives that continue to breathe, for lives that lost the ability to breathe, for lives that cried,

“I can’t breathe”

We fight

or else

the Protest becomes the Pandemic.

Find Tori Collins on social media by following IG: @toricoltori @pan2protest

Karen Lyon is the Hill Rag’s Literary Editor, President Emerita of the annual Literary Hill BookFest, a Contributor to Folger Magazine and writes the monthly Literary Hill column. You can reach her at klyon@literarybookfest.org.

If you would like to have your poem considered for publication, please send it to klyon@literaryhillbookfest.org. (There is no remuneration.)

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