Update, Dec. 30, 2017: Erica Garner died early Saturday, Dec. 30. A family spokesperson announced news of her passing via her official Twitter account.

Erica Garner, 27, a well-known activist and daughter of the late Eric Garner, suffered brain damage following a massive heart attack on Dec. 23. As of Dec. 29, when I wrote this poem, she remained hospitalized in critical condition. I read many tweets about the toll living in the racist system that ended her father’s life must have taken on Erica’s health. This reminded me of a story I’d heard earlier this month about black women essentially dying from systemic racism. I placed Erica’s name in brackets in the title because 1) her family still has hope she will recover, and 2) although most references in the poem are specific to Erica Garner, I want you to fill in your name, my name, the name of any black woman you know, because it could be any of us.

One more thing to note. In 1992, Arline T. Geronimus hypothesized “that the health of African-American women may begin to deteriorate in early adulthood as a physical consequence of cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage.” She called this deterioration “weathering.”