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CAN’T BREATHE Can 8 minutes, 46 seconds Change the World? By Mervyn Roye Weir

IT News Wire

The book brings together original poetic text merged alongside stunning imagery to provide a moving response to the execution of George Floyd. Importantly, although it’s a book, its powerful and unconventional presentation makes it more of a time capsule that captures the historical narrative of Colonialism.

The brutal execution of Floyd, as witnessed by the world, opened space for an ongoing conversation about racism in our world. Almost cinematic, Weir’s visual interpretation through an amalgam of poem, art, footage, and historical references allows the reader to plot the genesis of the race story, as it examines the notion of white privilege and claimed superiority. 

The book takes us on a stirring whirlwind tour of historical racial injustices, revealing a startling repetitive pattern that contextualises George Floyd’s death, reminding us that change inevitably begins with us.

As the trial of police officer Derek Chauvin is about to begin, the timely reflection it provokes attests that I CAN’T BREATHE is more than a mere book. Writer and illustrator Mervyn Weir has created a refreshing, valuable teaching tool from which we can all learn. Artfully presented, it works as a reference book, a storybook and a masterful poetic soliloquy. Simply put, I CAN’T BREATHE is a masterclass where readers can explore the roots of racism. This original poetic text is a response to the execution of the countless number of George Floyds un­­­­­captured by film.

Chapters are cleverly represented to hone excellent storytelling. Opening with the familiar chants of ‘Say Their Names’ and ‘Time for a Change’ – the narrative is presented in four instructional parts: Breath Control, Hyperventilating, Expired, and ends with Resurrection which speaks to lessons learned and hope for the future. ­Together, they weave a clear story stretching from the fields of Africa to the looting of Native American land and exploitation of the Caribbean. This insightful book dovetails with, and reaches into the recesses of England’s role in its own story of racism, turning over the historical stones of the Windrush Generation, the Sus laws, through to the government’s recent ‘hostile environment’ policy.

I Can’t Breathe is a conversation starter and gateway tool for confronting and eradicating racism. It does not pretend to answer all questions posed by racism, but rather it challenges each reader to make those 8 minutes and 46 seconds count for something positive. Furthermore, as a writer with origins rooted in the Caribbean, Weir says, “My hope after writing I Can’t Breathe is that white readers can never again reach for the excuse ‘I never knew – educate me!’”


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