“I Grew Up Learning How To Protect Men Who Hate Me”: Poets Share The Black Woman’s Experience

July 20, 2015  |  


At a very early age, we, Black women, are taught to protect, defend, and support Black men, with potentially problematic absolution. And though this are messages we receive as young women; it would seem that Black men, due to patriarchy and misogyny don’t receive those same lessons. We find evidence of this in Black men, publicly and privately denouncing Black women as having attitudes, as being too ghetto, too hood, too ratchet, not pretty or exotic enough.

It is these issues that two young poets, Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad, addressed in their piece “To Be Black and Woman and Alive.”

The college students performed the piece at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam International event and the video was posted on YouTube yesterday.

Check out some of the powerful stanzas from the poem that fluctuate from depressing anecdotes to inspiring facts below and the full video at the bottom of the page.

“Puerto Rican, Italian, Bajan, Thai, I know they want me to be everything I’m not.”

To be woman and black is to be
born knowing your beauty does not belong to you
is to be the first and last person to love yourself
is to know you’re not desirable to your own kind
I grew up learning how to protect men who hate me.

In college, a boy said he didn’t date Black girls
Like his momma wasn’t a Black girl
Like his sister wasn’t a Black girl
Like he ain’t drink milk and fat from a Black nipple
Like he wasn’t birthed from a Black womb
Like a Black woman’s body ain’t bend for him
Ain’t spill herself to make room for him
Like exiting a Black woman’s body ain’t a blessing disguised as a shadow

To be woman and Black is to be magic
Is to be the witch that wouldn’t burn
is to survive the White man with their needles and nooses
And the Black man with their hearts in their knuckles
To be Black and woman and alive is to be resilient
My very existence is defiance

You can watch the full, powerful and dynamically delivered poem in the video below.

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