Imani Perry has written Breathe. It is a 2019 nonfiction book that is presented in her voice. She is a Black mother writing a letter to her two Black sons. It is a letter filled with advice and caution and encouragement. But mostly it is a love letter. The letter is divided into three sections: Fear, Fly, and Fortune. Breathe is even more poignant in the aftermath of George Floyd's tragic death...murder.
In "Fear," Imani Perry reflects upon how the eyes of White people look at her sons. Perry writes, "I want them to admit that you are people, Black boys. People. This fact...should penetrate. It often doesn't." Perry goes on to state that, "even after Obama and hopes of a postracial society, it's still 'can't breathe, can't run, can't play, can't drive, can't sleep.'"
Imani Perry refers to the lost lives of Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, the young girls in Birmingham. She speaks of how her sons are "living with a roulette wheel of Black death."
And Perry instructs her sons, "that my people became, created, and imagined from a position of unfreedom is a source of pride, not shame. What better evidence of human beauty and resilience could there be?"
In "Fly," Perry tells her sons that she wants to hold them safe but that she also wants them to fly. It is in this section that we learn that Imani Perry is a very accomplished and educated woman having earned a Law degree from Harvard. She has also written May We Forever Stand and Looking for Lorraine.
In "Fortune," Perry captures her anxiety over her sons' future.
Throughout, Perry makes wonderful allusions- Literary allusions to James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sylvia Plath, and Harper Lee. Perry's conclusion about Atticus Finch doesn't coincide with what so many have concluded. And there are musical allusions to Nina Simone, The Staple Singers, The Commodores, and The Wiz.
It is the Fear section that I found the most compelling and heart-wrenching. This is the most personal of the three sections and the most relatable in terms of facing injustice.
Perry chose a title that has come to resonate so deeply now...Breathe because Black Lives Matter.