Context: Nia Wilson of SpiritHouseNC has said: all well and good to have protests in Chicago and Oakland, but she needs white people here in Durham to be in the streets. This is the challenge.

We are poisoned by hatred. We are poisoned by industries which do not care about us, ourselves, our communities. Please bear with me.

A lung permeated with coal dust, or of a person with Black Lung Disease, is black like a lump of coal. As the extraneous coal dust infiltrates the living pink tissue of the lung, the tissue becomes stiff, unyielding, dead.

For a hundred years or so, the medical world denied the existence of this killing disease; for there to be such a disease did not “work” with the industry’s need for workers, all of whom had lungs. Following a massive peoples’ struggle, the disease now known as Coal Miners’ Pneumoconiosis or Black Lung was recognized and a federal compensation program was begun.

The lungs of long-time cigarette smokers can also look like this.

I grew up in a household of smoking adults. My mother smoked while I was in utero. I smoked for almost twenty years, from my late teens to my mid thirties. Unfiltered. One or two packs a day. Except when I was pregnant. Because of my children I quit, but I was so addicted that for seven years after quitting when I had a choice, in a meeting or elsewhere, I would sit next to a smoker, so I could suck in a little hit.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the emotions associated with the lungs, which bring pure air into the body and transform it, are grief and loss. In TCM my dry cough might be associated with fire accumulated inside the lungs.

There is a metaphoric pony in this pile of manure (what must we breathe in, to have fire in our lungs?), actually from top to bottom a herd of shaggy, wily, and wild metaphor ponies.

We survive these assaults on our bodies, but they take a toll. When I was young, I could afford to be more cavalier about this.

My lungs, my breathing apparatus, are my point of vulnerability. I have coughed through most of 2016, sometimes coughing enough that I can not speak. Sometimes missing people and gatherings because I was coughing.  I am being responsible. I hate this. I am not critically sick, but I am chronically so. I am working with conventional medicine and otherwise (while I have medicare. I still remember my mother’s elation when medicare was first passed).

Nia, I need to get a little more well to fight this fight. This fight is my first obligation, an obligation inherited from my chain-smoking mother. I am gonna be in the streets. Can not let the coughing deprive me of my voice.