Poem Inspired By Breonna Taylor Asks The Officers, 'Would You Kill God Too?'
Breonna Taylor has inspired artists of all disciplines, from visual art to theater, music and poetry.
Atlanta poet W. J. Lofton, who said his work is rooted in the interrogation of “intersections of race, class, gender, ability, and really just trying to advocate for marginalized communities,” recently released a “visual poem” called “Would You Kill God Too?.”
It opens with Lofton on a bicycle. He’s dressed in a white hoodie with the word, “Truth,” across the front, and “Ain’t I?” on the back.
The first words you hear Lofton speak are: “Some women will not arrive in the springtime to lay in the bluegrass of Kentucky.”
“Something, It just kept hitting home to me that this woman, that had a promising future, was murdered six days before spring,” Lofton said.
Lofton drew inspiration for the work listening to the music of Nina Simone and Alice Smith while he grappled with “this incredible sadness” he felt after Taylor’s death. He also took a lot of visual inspiration from contemporary artist Carrie Mae Weems.
“I just wanted to tell the truth,” he said. “And as a man, I knew that I had a responsibility to listen to the women around me... And so what came with that was some women would not arrive in the springtime. And Breonna was a woman that would not get too lie in the Bluegrass of Kentucky.”
He continued that he was haunted by Taylor’s story, “that a Black woman could be at home asleep with her boyfriend, thinking that she is safe in her home. And then they are woken up by this atrocity, this violence.”
That’s how he landed on the title, “Would You Kill God Too?”
“If you could kill a woman that was previously sleeping in her home, that was not a threat to anyone.... what else would you commit yourself to doing?”
In the poem, Lofton directly addresses three of the Louisville Metro Police officers at Taylor’s apartment on March 13: Myles Cosgrove, Jonathan Mattingly and Brett Hankison.
“W.J. Lofton’s powerful visual poem ‘Would You Kill God Too?’ is a clarion call for justice in the infuriatingly tragic case of Breonna Taylor,” ARRAY vice president of public programming Mercedes Cooper said in a release. “Within this work, the artist demands visibility and accountability, making certain that her killers will not go unnamed and unknown.”
Lofton said it was difficult to use their names in this work because he usually focuses on honoring the “person who was slain.” But it’s in LEAP’s mission to call out the officers, he said, in a way that sends the message, “we know your names, and we're gonna tell everyone else about it."
“There's no consequence on the law enforcement side,” he said. “There's no accountability. And here we are stuck to mourn. Every moment will be a triggering moment of grief, just walking through your house expecting to see your loved one.”
Lofton said it’s crucial to “tell the truth, that these actions are based in racism.”
“It's a systemic issue that needs change, and we have to be brave enough to reimagine a world without the necessity for police force and violence.”
However, in the work, he doesn't call for the officers to be arrested.
“I believe that justice, it's up to Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, and her family,” Lofton said. “They get to define what justice looks like for them.”
Instead, he wanted the visual poem to be a gift to her family, “A beautiful representation of what life was and could have been.” And he intersperses white flowers throughout the work, something to also portray joy and hope.
He finishes the poem by saying that “some women will survive.”
Breonna Taylor was killed one year ago this week. Here is WFPL’s series remembering her.