“do you see us // do you see me?”

Whenever another black or brown body is senselessly murdered it always feels like the final straw that will break the camel‘s back. In our case, we’ve sadly grown accustomed to this feeling, carrying this unbearable load on our own backs for generations. The feeling of being hunted is the norm where I’m from. Sometimes it’s easier to keep your head down and keep moving and not speak up — God forbid we do, we’ll hear, “why are you so angry? why are you so loud? you should calm down.” Sometimes we don’t speak up out of fear. Fear of what, you ask? Fear of not belonging. Fear of not being included. Fear of not being considered an equal peer despite however many accomplishments a black or brown body has achieved in their lifetime. It is always never enough. 

When George Floyd was initially murdered, I had no idea. I had decided weeks ago to spiritually take a break from the socials (fb, ig) with all that was going on in the world — hoping to filter in the bad news on my own accord. It wasn’t until my father texted me, “be careful with the protests in LA,” when I realized that the last straw has finally broken our backs. 
This poem (“DO YOU SEE US // DO YOU SEE ME?”) is my offering to the peaceful and forthright protest which I endlessly support.



do you see us? do you see me?
i was always told by the irish kids
“yeah, but you’re one of us…”

do you see us? do you see me?
casting breakdown:
jorge, jose, jesus, javi.

do you see us? do you see me?
when we cry:
same clear. same wet. same dry.

have you seen me lately?
do i fit into your mind?
do you feel more comfortable when my truth is a lie?

i said have you seen me lately and have you even tried?
you are not black enough // you are not white enough
you are not brown enough was their reply.

i think i love me. i think i always have?
why do you make me question what’s behind
black brown white mask?

3 colors on a palette
bob ross and i really mixed them all together
crazy –– it was the color of me.

and all i ever wanted was to paint beautiful brown trees

do you see us? do you see me?
why do you only see us
when our bodies are in the street?

Orlando Rivera is a third-year drama student at the Juilliard School. He is also an experienced Intensive-Care Unit Registered Nurse currently working on the frontlines this summer as a COVID-19 first-line responder at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. A proud native of the Bronx, NY. He is a recipient of the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship.