Watch: Who Will Kneel for You?: Artists Speak Out on the NFL Protest

Tuesday, Feb 6, 2018

A chorus of artists including Art & Public Policy (APP) faculty Anna Deavere Smith, actor Danny Glover, Tisch faculty Oskar Eustis and APP alumnus Anooj Bhandari recite “To Kneel” by Professor Kathy Engel, in a video directed by APP alumna Leah Natasha Thomas, in support in support of the NFL players who take the knee, the movements against racist police brutality and for the right to dissent.


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To Kneel

The black men who make wages
from the brutal banging of the skull,
pounding of the knees, arms
reaching like branches in the long
arc of a pass, now kneel.
The muscles of their souls,
the soles of their cleats, stretch
of thighs speak. Fans and refs
yell, commentators jabber and behold:
one knee, hand to ground,

they kneel, the weight
of their built-up bodies
pulled earthward as if called
by those from before
to kneel now, refusing to salute
this country’s killing field.
Those with the heart to be the lonely
first; their knees sing. Jobs at stake,
they kneel for the inheritors. For the future
dignity of bodies to choose to stand

or touch down. And the joining, too—
some, then flocks, arms threaded,
waving flags of jersey-ed bodies,
an anthem, for the uncountable—
to be counted. And to those
who drop to the knee
only in the recesses of a locked
back room or those who switch and bait
in the light, amid the throngs—or those
who hide behind their whiteness—

who will be there to kneel for you
when such a time comes, as it will
come? What will you say when
your children or your grandchildren,
their friends or lovers ask
what parts of your bodies
touched the ground
in the moment of loyalty,
or the moment of betrayal?
What would I say?

@Kathy Engel, 2017

This video was produced with supprt from The Tisch School of the Arts Dean's Faculty grant and individual donors. #whowillkneelforyou, a project of Bowery Arts & Science, is made in partnership with, and hosted by The Root, and co sponsored by Pen America. Special thanks to Leah Natasha Thomas, Melissa Murray, Mariah McClain. To E. Ethelbert Miller, Omo Moses, Jody Bolz, Gwen McKinney and Aracelis Girmay for early encouragement and support. To all the readers. To the players. To the groups doing the work.