top of page


For Jordan Neely

The Power of Speaking Up. Two images of Jordan Neely, smiling on a subway platform, one arm raised, dressed like Michael Jackson.

Several years ago, I was riding the BART train one afternoon, sitting and reading a book. A Black man in a jaunty hat and well pressed clothing was singing to himself, swinging and swaying as he stood. He was en route to visit his mother, he said. He seemed happy.

The train stopped at a station and police got on and began to pull the man off the train. He resisted, clearly frightened.

The police said there’d been a complaint of a disturbance. The man began to panic.

I spoke up, loudly, “He did nothing wrong!”

The police kept trying to get him out the door. The man began to recite his mother’s phone number to another passenger, begging her to call, because his mother would be worried if he didn’t show up.

I stood and took one step toward the police and the man, repeating myself, “He did nothing wrong!”

Others began to repeat that phrase, or things like it. Others stood, too. Everyone was clearly upset, and not at the man, but at the police.

Several of us were clearly ready to follow them off onto the platform. No way were we leaving that man on his own.

What happened?

The police read the room. They released the man. The doors closed. We went on our way, all of us shaken. We tried to comfort the man.

The train went on to the next station. The man would get to see his mother after all.


Jordan Neely won’t see anyone again.

Jordan Neely—a NYC street entertainer—was, by several accounts, in a mental health crisis on a subway car when he was choked to death by one white man while being restrained by two others.

No one spoke up for Jordan Neely, until around two and a half minutes into the chokehold, a Black man stepped back onto the train and calmly explained to the three white men that the chokehold was killing the man on the ground.

By the time they listened, Neely was already dead.


It can be hard to know what to do when adrenaline is pumping and a situation seems confusing.

It can be hard to speak up when our current overculture has taught us to outsource our responsibilities to each other to some shadowy “authority,” whether that authority comes in the form of police, or immigration, or politicians… or three white men who have taken over a situation, causing harm.

But sometimes? We have to claim our own authority. We need to take a breath, find our courage, and speak. Loudly.

When we speak, that gives others the courage to speak up, too.

If one person had loudly insisted early on that Neely not be choked? Others may have joined them, and Neely might still be alive today.

I don’t know this, of course. I was not there.

But I do know that we must try to do better by each other.


New York City knows what a chokehold did to Eric Garner. Florida knows what vigilantism looked like for Trayvon Martin.

Everyone in the US knows how violent some of our family members and neighbors are. There’s a new story now, every day.

But what we don’t hear or see enough are the stories where crisis was averted because someone spoke up, and others joined them.

I’d like more of those stories.


I also wonder what would have happened if a few people had tried to talk de-escalate the crisis. To talk to Neely. To ask him if he needed assistance.

I wonder what would have happened if someone had offered him food. Or asked him to sit down and talk.

That’s hard, and I get it. I have a fair amount of on the ground experience with talking to highly agitated people in crisis. Most folks do not. It can feel scary to try to look beyond the surface behavior and re-humanize someone who is acting in erratic, perhaps frightening ways.

But if we are able to practice this? We can help others practice, too. Because if we’re going to be vigilantes, let’s be the kind who try to de-escalate a situation, instead of choking a man to death.


We have the power to help each other. We just have to choose it.

We have to practice when we are not in a crisis situation.

This starts in small ways: We talk to our neighbors. We ask someone on the street if they need help. We share what we have. We stop outsourcing our authority every time we encounter something annoying or upsetting.

We work to unlearn our racism, or our transphobia, or misogyny. We work to unlearn bigotry and fear.

We ask ourselves: “What would I do in a confusing situation where I feel that something’s wrong?”

And then: We practice breathing. We practice speaking up. We practice asking others for help.

It doesn’t always work. I’ve sometimes gone to people’s aid with no back up. But oftentimes, other people join in. And we act as community.

And together, we save this world some pain.


A Basic Bystander Intervention Resource

Some De-Escalation Techniques

On Jordan Neely’s Life


This essay was made possible by my Patreon supporters. I give thanks for every one of them. Want to join? You get weekly access to essays, stories, poems, process blogs, AMAs, Sprint With Me Saturdays, and quarterly ebooks.

a crown with an ouroboros, flame, and heart on the pointed spikes.
Sacred Crown designed by Karen Bruhin and Ivo Dominguez Jr.

You who long for change, what are you seeking?

Never doubt the power of the night.

Obscure though colors be, your senses heighten.

Gift years slow tumbling with inner light.

Time’s hush. Time’s stretch. Time’s song.

Trust in the birds, to fresh skies yonder winging.

Listen for the beetles scurrying low.

Prick your ears for wind, and rain—what’s coming?

As you light the gentle fire to boil your tea.

Time’s hush. Time’s stretch. Time’s song.

All is ordinary here, and all distinctive.

Every moment’s breath, now seen anew.

Your life, never mundane, is ever sacred.

What you do, and think, and feel, weighs consequent.

Time’s hush. Time’s stretch. Time’s song.

If you do choose, this present now unfolding

Allow your heart to lift and strike a note.

The rhythm of your pulse echoes the spinning

Of every star, each planet…

Claim your crown.

T. Thorn Coyle

October 2010/April 2023


This poem was made possible by the generosity of my Patreon supporters.

Sigil and Ritual

A weathered wood door with a round top. A sigil that looks like a house with a spiral running up and out/into it is on the door. A Home Blessing reads the text.
Blessing a home begins with gratitude. Gratitude for what we have. A roof. Some walls. A bed. Whatever food is in the kitchen.

When we send gratitude out into our home, the space itself responds, relaxes, opens.

We’ll return to that gratitude again and again.


Next comes cleansing. Clean the cat box. Sweep the floors. Clean what you have the energy to clean. You don’t need to go overboard with this. Adapt it to your own conditions. If you struggle to clean, pick one small thing that feels doable.

Also, cleansing can be done in any order. Some people like to do the physical cleansing part before the energetic cleansing part. Feeling stuck? Try reversing the two.

If you did some physical house cleaning first, clean yourself next. Wash your face and hands or take a shower. Imagine stuck energy running down the drain.

Next, imagine your energy fields around you. It’s okay to pretend if you need to. I like to imagine the larger energy field as an egg or sphere around my body.

Breathe into your belly. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Breathe into your belly again. Finding center.

Imagine anything you are carrying around that is not yours. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, imagine pushing those things that aren’t yours out of your energy fields. Do this three times. Then, on a fourth breath, imagine your exhaled breath tracing the edges of your energy field with your breath, forming a boundary.

Now you are ready for the energetic cleansing, or banishing, of your space.

For this, you can use bells, incense, scented water in a spritzer, clapping, dancing, or salt water.

Open the windows if you can.

Move around your space counter clockwise if you can.* In old European folklore, sunwise was considered lucky and prosperous, so we tend to want to release things anti-sunwise/anti-clockwise and call things in sunwise/clockwise.

If you are unable to do that, station yourself as close to the center of the space as possible, and either turn counterclockwise, or imagine turning.

Clapping, or wafting the incense, or spraying the water… circumambulate counterclockwise, imagining any stuck or disturbing energies leaving the space. If you like, you may say:

“I cleanse this space of the things that impede harmony and joy.”

Or make up words that feel right for you.

Once you have done this cleansing, it is time for the next part of the home blessing.


What feels like a blessing to you? Is it art? Singing? Listening to music? Lighting candles? Plants? Glass sun catchers?

You can use these as touchstones and anchors to your blessing magic.

As we moved counterclockwise for the banishing and cleansing, here we will move clockwise or sunwise.

First, draw or print out my house blessing sigil, or make one of your own (My sigil shows a home circulating the energy of blessing in and out).

Next, holding a candle, or a ritual knife if you use one, circumambulate (or turn from the center of the space), imagining drawing a line of shimmering light around the inside of your home. Draw that from north, to east, to south, to west, and back to north then draw the candle or blade upward, imagining the line of light moving upward, then back down and around to beneath you, then back up to north again. Inhale. The next time you exhale, imagine the lines diffusing around you, forming a sphere of harmony, joy, and protection.

Now, say out loud whatever you want the space to hold: rest, happiness, love, study, creativity… whatever it is, imagine it flowing into the space around you. Then hover your candle or blade above the drawing, and imagine focusing those words into the house blessing sigil.

When the work feels complete, set the candle or blade on top of the sigil.

Offer thanks to your tools. Offer gratitude to your home.

Now, on one more breath, imagine the sphere around you expanding, until it pushes out just past your walls. If you have an outdoor space, you can push the sphere to the outer edges there.

Finally, place one hand on your heart, the other around your navel. Inhale. Exhale. Give thanks again.

Extinguish any candles.

Place the house blessing sigil wherever it feels right. If you like, you can frame the paper, or carve it into wood, or inscribe it onto metal… Let it be a reminder to you that you deserve a safe and loving home.

To share the blessing, over the next month, offer food to animals, plants, or friends. Feed the sphere with breath, music, or laughter.

If you have any surplus, gift it to someone who doesn’t have a safe place to sleep at night. Drop off food to a neighborhood pantry or give money or supplies to someone on the street.

Blessings shared are blessings increased.

*People who live south of the equator, move in the anti-sunwise/sunwise directions according to how it works for you!


This essay was made possible by the steady generosity of my Patreon supporters. I thank each of you from the bottom of my black heart!

Want to study Sigil Magic with me? I have an online class coming up in May: Sigil Magic for Creative Success

bottom of page