What Were You Doing? By Noriko Nakada

What Were You Doing?

I remember watching Eyes on the Prize
with my mother in our living room and asking her
“Were you there, Mom? What were you doing?”
And Mom told me, “I was at home raising kids.
I was being a mom.”

It was 1968
the year my oldest brother was born
the year they killed Martin Luther King, Jr.
the year they killed Robert Kennedy.

Then it was 1970
the year my sister was born
the year they killed four students at Kent State.
the year they killed two more at Jackson State.

So by the time I was born
in 1974 it had been
a year since they killed 11-year-old Clifford Glover.
a year since they killed 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez.

In 2012
the year my oldest was born was
the year they killed Trayvon Martin.
the year they killed Rekia Boyd.

and 2015
the year my youngest was born was
the year after they killed Eric Garner and Tamir Rice
the year they killed Walter Scott and Freddie Gray

and in 2016
the year they kill Alton Sterling
the year they kill Philando Castille
I can no longer stay at home.

I march in the streets
because some day my children
will ask me what I was doing
and I don’t want to say, “I was at home raising kids.”

Some year when they ask
“Were you there, Mom?
What were you doing?”
I will tell them, “I was saying their names.
I was being your mom.”

By Noriko Nakada


Noriko Nakada writes, blogs, tweets, parents, and teaches middle school in Los Angeles where she grinds out creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. She has two book length memoirs available and has been published in Specter Magazine, Hippocampus Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times.

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