Multiplicity Commons

Multiplicity Commons: Black Lives Matter

Multiplicity Commons is special collaborative project of Multiplicity Magazine & Blog. It features the nonfiction and poetic reflections of established and emerging writers on key issues in society and culture. The first series of Multiplicity Commons shares literary perspectives on the Black Lives Matter Movement.


  • Multiplicity Commons No. 8

    What Comes Up When You Think About Breonna Taylor?

    a collaborative poem created by
    Erin Binney, Jennifer Laurenza, Aprell May, Jasmin Rivas,
    Amy Stonestrom, & Erin Sadler

    Black and brown bodies hunted down.

    A book that changed my life: 
    War Against All Puerto Ricans
    the King of the Towels
    tortured
    in an island prison called La Princesa.

    Crying at the
    injustice    grief     pain    devastation.
    Chalk, blue dress, innocent sleeper.

    They protested.

    To no avail.

    We need to change the system
    change abuse
    stop systemic racism.

    I  protested!

    I wrote about her
    life taken
    her story withheld.

    We protested.

    Heavy heart
    How did this happen?

    We know how it happened.

    We need to change the system
    change abuse
    stop systemic racism.

    Black lives matter.

    What Comes Up When You Think of Breonna Taylor

    About the Writers

    This collaborative poem was created by six Bay Path MFA students in response to a creative prompt given by student Jasmin Rivas.

    Erin Binney is a Sagittarius, an INFJ, a 1 on the Enneagram, and a firm believer that people are complex beings who shouldn’t be put into boxes. She writes about family history.

    Jennifer Laurenza is a practicing psychotherapist who writes for self-preservation and creative expression. She specializes in LGBTQ mental health, and is an advocate for the LGBTQ community and other marginalized populations.

    Aprell May is completing her final year in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University. She is interning at the Springfield Library and Museums in collaboration with a collector to reimagine the Native American Hall and to manifest a living community exhibit.

    Jasmin Rivas is an after-school program administrator, yoga instructor, and poet in the community she grew up in. She is a social justice warrior whose intention is to write stories that help people heal.

    Amy Stonestrom writes about family, religion, and politics. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Storm Cellar Quarterly, Barnstorm Journal, Superstition Review, and others. You can find her at amystonestrom.com.

    Erin Sadler is a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with people who have been diagnosed with cancer. She writes to forge connections that inspire, heal, and unite people.


  • Multiplicity Commons No. 7

    I Stand with You

    by Hayley Fife

    Growing up, I never imagined I would have to post #BLM to help fight for my Black friends. As an 18-year-old member of Generation Z, I didn’t think that in my lifetime, we would still be fighting for equal rights. I haven’t participated in a protest. I still live with my mom and she doesn’t want me going, although she supports the movement. But as much as I can, I’ve been sharing photos, links, and messages of support on social media. I try to talk about Black Lives Matter as much as possible in classes and with friends and family. I vote.

    When George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, my heart broke for the Black community. I felt ashamed to know that they felt unsafe around white people, especially around police, who should make us feel safe. I’m even more ashamed that so many of these officers keep getting away with murder. When I think about my Black friends getting pulled over, it scares me. I worry about their safety, about them getting yelled at, about being thrown out of their car simply because they’re Black. Seeing police on video hurting innocent people shines a light on the injustice going on under our noses. Real change needs to happen very soon. It needs to happen now.

    Sometimes I want to scream about it. The pain Black people feel is real. The hurt they are expressing is real. The fear in their body is real. How dare people say BLM is for publicity, as if Black people choose to be killed. Police are “blue” 40 hours a week; Black people are targets 24/7, 365 days a year. My Black friends carry fear around like it’s normal. But it’s not normal to fear for your life when getting pulled over. When the men in blue kneel on the necks of innocent men you love—Black fathers, husbands, brothers, sons—in the street while their actions are recorded. They kneel on your rights. Shoot up your houses while you’re sleeping. Throw tear gas into your peaceful protests.

    Do all cops act this way? No. But the ones that do get away with it.

    I’m not Black, but I stand with you.


    About the Writer

    Hayley Fife is an 18-year-old college student at Bay Path University majoring in forensic psychology. She has always had an interest in writing—and in social justice. She fully supports the BLM movement because “all lives don’t matter until Black lives do, too.”


  • Multiplicity Commons No. 6

    Holding Vigil for George Floyd

    by Cindy Stewart

    Holding Vigil for George Floyd by Cindy Steward

    Under a nine-foot bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the

    Pacifist Memorial in Sherborn, Massachusetts

    Eight middle-aged women                  held space for the

    life of George Floyd.

    When he cried out for his mama as his

    neck was being crushed          we were

    beckoned. He was our

    son. In silent vigil we stood at the

    edge of the street                                 and held

    pictures of his face no longer gracing our earth.

    We held him in our

    hearts as we                            held every other

    Black person who has lost their

    one precious life.                    We circled the

    Victims of Violence stone and spoke

    words to the universe of the

    injustice of his death and of our         having to hold

    vigil for a senseless loss, once again.

    Through our fury                                we wept.


    About the Writer

    Cindy Stewart works with adults with special needs at The Life Experience School. She is the mother of three amazing adult children and a student in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program at Bay Path University. Cindy lives and writes on a small farm outside Boston.


  • Multiplicity Commons No. 5

    Flight

    by Kamil Czyz

    Flight by Kamil Czyz

    Cop’s knee on his neck,
    phones bore witness while he pleaded,
    but we stood back,
    obeying the badge.
    Believing the pledge.

    The next day,
    unyielding, unmovable rage.
    We overflowed streets with fury
    and fire,
    a pageant of soot and angst,
    a sacrifice of torched cars and golden buildings
    to cleanse the shame.
    Glittering posts, photos of unintended violence,
    unquenchable wrath.

    Then, washing lines blossom,
    a unison of face masks and angry t-shirts
    whispering in the wind, quiet.


    About the Writer

    Kamil Czyz was born and raised in Olsztyn, Poland and now lives and writes in Gdańsk. His poetry has been published in Coffin Bell Journal, with forthcoming work to appear in Chitro Magazine and The Dead Mule.


  • Multiplicity Commons No. 4

    Speaking Up, Finally

    by Susan Barry-Schulz

    Speaking Up, Finally by Susan Barry-Schulz

    I am by no means an expert on racial justice issues. I grew up in a mostly white town and moved to another mostly white town in the Hudson Valley region of New York State with my husband and our newborn daughter 25 years ago. Not long ago I would have considered myself a “nice” person who “treats everyone the same” and left it at that. Coming of age in the northern suburbs of Buffalo in the 1970s and 80s, I was socialized to avoid any discussions that could cause discomfort or tension. But in recent years I have found myself belatedly driven to answer this question: What does it really mean to be white in America?

    There are many people much smarter than I am who have long pointed out that the key to making real progress on the problem of racism in this country lies in the willingness of white people to honestly consider and acknowledge the answer to that question. I don’t know why it took me so long to ask it.

    After reading Debby Irving’s Waking Up White, I continued to explore the concept of whiteness as a racial identity in America by reading books on race theory and racism, including Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World and Me. I listened to podcasts such as Scene on Radio’s Seeing White and attended lectures by speakers directly addressing these issues. But as a poet myself, I found it just as important to read literature and poetry by people of color. Which writers are included in our school curriculums? Whose voices are we not hearing? How do we challenge the ideas of what is considered literature? Who makes these decisions?

    As I read, listened, and reflected, it became more and more apparent to me that our nation’s past and current policies have a direct impact on opportunities for equal access to loans, housing, healthcare, fair pay, education, criminal justice, and representation in the arts—all rights and benefits that I, a white person in America, have had the privilege of taking for granted. Until now. It has been painful to recognize the ways in which I, through silence and inaction, have been complicit in the systemic racism that persists in this country and that continues to hold all of us back from reaching our full potential as a society. There is, however, no progress to be made, no benefit to anyone in centering my discomfort.

    At the Democratic National Convention in August, Kamala Harris said, “Years from now, when this moment has passed, our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us, ‘Where were you when the stakes were so high?’ And we will tell them, not just how we felt, but what we did.”

    I am hoping I can do better and the first thing I must do is to speak up. Even—especially—when it is uncomfortable.


    About the Writer

    Susan Barry-Schulz is a poet and licensed physical therapist. Her poetry has appeared in The Five-Two, The Wild Word, SWWIM, Shooter Literary Magazine, Barrelhouse online, South Florida Poetry Journal, The New Verse News, Panoply, and elsewhere. She is a member of the Hudson Valley Writer’s Center and lives in a lake neighborhood in Putnam County, New York with her husband and one or more of her three adult children. It all depends.


  • Multiplicity Commons No. 3

    It Took One Week

    by Ramon Jimenez

    It only took a week for people
    to come out of quarantine into the streets of Seattle
    mustering the will to face baton beatings
    and gas blasting through the nighttime sky.

    Police officers armed to the teeth
    with military grade artillery,
    and a confused National Guard
    stalking every corner of downtown.

    Useless against the rage of 400 years.

    The local news stations of Kiro, Komo, and King 5
    Replayed only the images of looting and rioting,
    more focused on storefronts
    than Black and Brown lives lost in broad daylight.

    Even the mayor was spellbound.
    Taking a knee
    Giving out a couple of hugs
    her lovely liberal city
    burning before us all.


    About the Writer

    Ramon Jimenez is a writer and educator who resides in Seattle, Washington. Originally from Inglewood, California, he now teaches language arts and runs a summer youth poetry program. He writes poetry that focuses on immigration, culture, and travel, and is interested in exploring locations and how they connect to memories.


  • Multiplicity Commons No. 2

    Crying for Water City

    by Amy Stonestrom

    Crying for Water City by Amy Stonestrom

    A strong gust of wind rattles the windows and shakes the house with such force that I wonder if I need to gather my chicks and hurry to the basement.

    Then nothing. All is calm.

    Minutes later I jolt in my chair at the sound of firecrackers pop, pop, popping in our front yard. Firecrackers? It’s only late May. From the next room I hear my son’s deep, calm voice.

    “The tree fell.”

    “The tree?” I’m envisioning the small flowering crab with the skinny trunk. Fine, I think.

    “Mom, the tree fell,” my son says again, and now we’re both rushing to the front door. There it is, lying almost at our feet. Our enormous red maple, Acer rubrum, split in two. One half stands upright, the other half covers the yard. The top of the canopy lies just short of our living room window.

    Last fall, the blaze of the collective foliage was so beautiful it caused an ache just behind my rib cage. I feel the same ache now, knowing I will never again witness this display.

    Split in half.

    Just like each one of us right now.

    Drew says what I am thinking: “It’s because of the protests and riots.”

    Red has survived countless blizzards, spring storms, and straight-line winds but it would not stand while Minneapolis fell.

    We now live 20 miles from downtown, separated by one state line and two great rivers. Today, I long for our old neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We still call them home, will always call them home. The Twin Cities. Conjoined but not identical.

    Each time I close my eyes, I hear Mr. Floyd cry out beneath the unyielding knee. I see the burned-out buildings, the supremacist instigators. I taste the justified anger.

    The land of ten thousand lakes, now a waterfall of tears.  

    Drew and I walk carefully among the fallen branches. I want to cradle each newly opened bud in my cupped hands. Together we approach the gaping wound in the trunk, previously hidden from view. Giant ants climb through the oozing sickness. Disease and decay found their way to the center while we weren’t looking. Or maybe we choose not to see it. I step closer and gag from the stench. I wonder if we could have stopped this destruction had we treated the wound sooner.

    Split in half.

    Just like each one of us right now.


    About the Writer

    Amy Stonestrom’s essays have appeared in Brevity, Superstition Review, Defunkt, Storm Cellar Quarterly, Parhelion and others. Her work has won awards from the National League of American Pen Women and Street Light Magazine’s memoir/essay contest. Currently an MFA candidate in Bay Path University’s creative nonfiction program. You can find her at amystonestrom.com.


  • Multiplicity Commons No. 1

    Social Justice Today

    by Aprell May

    Breonna Taylor. Delano Walker Jr. Dominic May. Mark Scalise. Lenny Brown. Benjamin Schoolfield. Sandra Bland. Rodney King. Melvin Jones. George Floyd. Ramona Africa. John Africa. Emmett Till. Colin Kaepernick. Darryl Moss. Philando Castile. Atatiana Koquice Jefferson. Kendrick Johnson. Ahmaud Arbery. Eric Garner. Ramsey Orta. Vauhxx Booker. Tamir Rice. Treyvon Martin. Botham Jean. Amadou Diallo. Fitzroy Gayle. Terence Dickerson. Michall Brown. Elijah McCain. Nelson Mandela. Angela Davis. Frank Embree. Daniel Prude. Tamron Hall. Leroy Martinez. Emmanuel Mumford.

    As I reflect on these names of people living and dying with injustice, I am both sad and strengthened. I am sad for the bloodshed. I am sad for loss. I am sad for the pain and hurt suffered by the families of every human being on this incomplete list. Torn-apart families and communities for centuries on end. Each family missing parents, siblings, extended family, and friends. Their names are a representation of missing memories, of lost love and family traditions. Some names belong to my family. Some to my friends.

    I am sad because of the number of the commenters on public news forums who seem indifferent to systematic oppression. Some of them saying that capital punishment without a jury is okay for misdemeanor crimes. Death being served with a warrant, as in Breonna’s case. Our people are still told to “get over it,” while our flesh is being crucified each day. How do we get over the first ones, tied and chained, the ones who did not make it off the coast? Those who were thrown off the ship? Those who chose death at the bottom of the Atlantic? How do we get over it now, when CBS News reports that more than 160 Black people in our country have been killed by police this year alone?

    And yet I am strengthened to see my community stand up at protests. I am strengthened to see that, contrary to propaganda, people aren’t only crabs in the bucket, pulling their neighbors down, but some are lifting as they climb. Classmates creating art. Bosses sending out sincere emails telling staff to check on their Black coworkers. High-school teens organizing large protests amidst a pandemic. I am strengthened to see social justice groups forming all over the country. My cousin in East Hampden organized a social justice committee whose mission is to let the town know that “a knee is not enough” for some of its citizens.

    I am encouraged when I see white moms banding arms because they were summoned when George called for his mom. Or the white man yelling, “white bodies to the front,” at the Springfield Black Lives Matter protest. Or the hearing-impaired girl who stood in front of me while we waited for the Springfield Police Department to take a knee in solidarity. She waited all night by herself and into morning to no avail. Professors creating political art and the president of my university attending a Juneteeth program.

    I am strengthened to see the resilient people who hold values in social justice and equality.

    I am strengthened to see this generation fighting for civil rights by “owning their now.”


    About the Writer

    Aprell May is currently a graduate student, completing her final year in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University. A tribal member of the Native American Inter-Tribal Council of Western Massachusetts, she interns at the Springfield Library and Museums in collaboration with a collector to create a living community exhibit in the Native American Hall. She contributes to Bay Path’s Network News, the Voices of Resilience, and the Women on the Move conference. Aprell is at work on her first memoir, Classic Fly.


Multiplicity Commons is curated by Leanna James Blackwell, the director of Bay Path University’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and the editor of Multiplicity.