by NoViolet Bulawayo

Calling the border crossers, footsteps mourning lost homelands. Calling beautiful black men, beating hearts stilled by police bullets. Calling incarcerated mothers, milk souring behind bars. Calling the forgotten bodies, seeping sorrow into the Mediterranean. Calling indigenous peoples, displaced in their own lands. Calling produce pickers, lungs ravaged by pesticides. Calling the “alien.” Calling black and brown children being groomed for jail in neglected schools. Calling their brothers, fathers and uncles, choking the throats of greedy prisons. Calling the landscapers, the maids, the cooks, the nannies, living on throbbing feet. Calling the “undocumented.” Calling the oppressed, waiting in vain for justice. Calling murdered transgender sisters, their precious names unsung. Calling the citizens of no nation. Calling the brilliant blood spilled by border agents. Calling the homeless, dreaming of home. Calling disabled communities that are too often forgotten. Calling sweatshop workers drenched in rivers of sweat. Calling the disenfranchised. Calling mothers languishing in welfare lines. Calling deported parents, hearts breaking for separated children. Calling the weary tillers of the land who don’t get to eat the grain. Calling the “illegals.” Calling the evacuees waiting in refugee camps. Calling brown bodies, packed like sardines in detention centers. Calling the poor, waiting for the future with posters that read, “What About Us?”

The call is a prayer to the human in each one of us; all our names make it holy. The call is a song that will save us. The call is a balm to heal our bruised humanity.  The call is truth’s mirror; it dares us to look into our hearts. The call is a bridge over borders that never belonged to the earth to begin with. The call is light to swallow the darkness we’ve been fighting against so we can finally sit in bright justice. The call is a funeral poem, it weeps for the precious bodies murdered by the police and border agents. The call is a map into destiny, it charts the free world we want to live and love in. The call is against silence; it will ring from Baltimore to Bangladesh. In Ferguson. In Johannesburg. Around Mexico. El Salvador. All over the Americas. In Folsom State Prison. On every street. From Syria to Kosovo. In China and Eritrea. In Cambodia and Haiti. In Karnes County, Texas. In Zimbabwe. At checkpoints. Outside your backyard.

And we call in every language, feel our itching throats shake the whole wide world with voices that will not cease until we are heard. Until they honor the living song of our wronged names, our silenced names, all our names. Until the wars on our humanity come to an end. We are not going anywhere, we will stand here and all over and call until all chains are broken. And they take down the fence and dismantle the bars. And erase the lines and open the borders. And shatter the ceiling. And justice comes to our neighborhoods. And the world at last guarantees our living.

Because you are not free until all of us are free.

And we won’t stop calling until our voices rearrange the world into a place that looks like home, we will call. From far from deep from near from up from down from under, we will call. From home from exile from everywhere, we will call. From knocking on doors, from street protests, from marching for justice, we will call. Because we want to see black and brown bodies living in freedom, untouched by police bullets and border agents who hunt our bodies like wild game.

Because we want to wear our skins like prized jewels through doors that do not slam in our faces. Into quality schools. Into good jobs. Into safe neighborhoods. Into better services. Into opportunity. Into streets where we are not profiled. Into dialogues in which we are heard. Into places for which those before us marched and fought and died as lynched ancestors wept.

We call for innocent black-brown children who are the apple of the world’s eye. Who grow and live to the fullest because their lives are so sacred that nothing, no police weapon, will dare try to kill them before they grow. Who strive and win because they have food, shelter, healthcare, education, chances, love, beauty and everything that holds them to the sun. Because their proud parents are not behind bars but at home being parents. Because they live in a world that does not fight them but fights for them.

Because oppression stops here, Because dignity starts here.

We call for countries that have the conscience to kiss the hard callouses of the hands and feet that daily bleed for them, that walk hard roads for them, that sacrifice for them, that feed them, that tend to them, that hold them together. We call for countries that will give in turn to those who give themselves because they know the language of gratitude.

We call for countries that will shepherd us from scorching fields and construction sites and restaurant kitchens and dirty toilets and school corridors and corporate floors and from every nook and cranny from which we bend and groan and sweat. We call for countries that will thank us with ground on which to place our aching feet. And on that ground, the police and border agents will know to offer us bread and shade. We call for countries that will not insult us, that will treat us with dignity for what we’ve lost and given, that know that without our shoulders, they would not stand as tall.

Because a person is a person because of other people.

We call for checkpoints that will not say, Where are you from? Go back home. You are not wanted here. That will turn on the lights and call us by name. We call for countries that will look at us with their hearts and refuse to watch us die. That will rescue us from the water and meet us with balm for every wound.

We call for nations that will take roll every morning to remind themselves of how precious we are—of how beautiful, how relevant, how important, and therefore, how they must not fail us. That will tilt unprejudiced hearts to the anthem of our being, lift us higher than flags of victory and fly us into futures the shape of true justice. Because we are here and we are not going anywhere. Because we will call and call and call until we are all free. Because we know there is more than this. Because there will be more than this.

In Solidarity

Asian American Writers Workshop

Ai-jen Poo

Alexander Chee

Alvaro Enrigue

American Civil Liberties Union of California

Andrea Cristina Mercado

Andrew Hsiao

Angela Flournoy

Angelica Salas

Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)

Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs

Aurora Guerrero

Beckie Masaki

Bryant Terry

Cameron Russell

Carlos Amador

Center For Media Justice - CultureSHIFT Lab

Courage Campaign

Daniel José Older

David Henry Hwang

dream hampton

Eddie Huang

Eddy Zheng

El/La Para TransLatinas


Favianna Rodriguez

Gerald Lenoir

Gloria Walton

Hank Willis Thomas

Hari Kondabolu

Himanshu Suri

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

International Development Exchange (IDEX)

Isa Noyola

Jay Caspian Kang


Janet Mock

Jasiri X

Jenny Zhang

Jessica Hagedorn

john powell

Jose Antonio Vargas

Judy Baca

Junot Díaz

Justin Torres

Ken Chen

Marlon James

Manuel Pastor

Marianne Manilov /
The Engage Network

Mark Gonzalez

Mike de la Rocha

Movement Strategy Center

Mujeres Unidas y Activas


Nunu Kidane

Ocean Vuong

Porochista Khakpour

Priority Africa Network

Raul Pacheco

Rinku Sen

Roxane Gay

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

Staceyann Chin

Teju Cole

Transgender Law Center

Valeria Luiselli


Wangechi Mutu

Yasmin Ramirez

Yosi Sergant

Thanks to the Asian American Writers Workshop (AAWW) for their collaboration in inviting artists to take a stand with us. AAWW is a national not-for-profit arts organization devoted to the creating, publishing, developing and disseminating of creative writing by Asian Americans.

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Multiracial + Multilingual Movement

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