Your sister is black. Don’t you love her?
Your mother is black. Don’t you love her?
Why don’t you love me?
NYU students Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad unapologetically highlight a harsh reality within the African American community in their poem, ‘To Be Black and Woman and Alive’.
They recited the honest words at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational finals in April, and blew up on YouTube when Button Poetry posted a video of their performance last Sunday, July 19.
“These black girls need to watch out, ’cause white girls is winning.”
Begins the poem that so boldly faces the unfortunate reality that black women encounter everyday. While black men make black women feel undesirable and often unpretty, black women are standing at the forefront of issues that affect black men…rarely receiving any credit.
Ever since I can remember, black boys my age have had this fascination with “exotic” looking women, whether Hispanic, Asian, or black; but wait — as long as she’s “mixed”. Beautiful olive skin, paired with long curly hair, just does something to black men.
I understand Valentine and Jihad. They are not by any means dogging beautiful women of other races, they are simply asking black men, “Why not us?” Where is your love for the women you would not be here without?
One of the last, powerfully poignant lines of the poem: “I grew up learning how to protect men who hate me…learned how to be the revolution spit-shining their spines.”
What about Sandra?
…Who is going to protect us? In the wake of her death, this question is raised: Who is going to stand up for and love black women?
What must we do to have the love that we so often put out be reciprocated?
“Black women have too much attitude”…”I need a woman that knows her place.” No, baby what you need is a woman that can take you to a PLACE that no other woman can. A place of healing, protection, passion, understanding, and love.
And attitude. What constitutes as “too much” attitude?
The audacity to say no? The gift of having her own mind? The silent pain she carries because she has to remain strong at all times? Her mouth which she uses for something more than your pleasure? What is too much attitude?
One word that I always see associated with the black woman is strength. I personally believe that most of the strength lies in the tongue. From the outhouse to the White House, it’s our “attitude” that takes us to levels of success they said we never would reach.
As the poem ends…
“To be black and woman and alive is to be resilient. My very existence is defiance!”
p.s. We still love you.