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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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