Yesterday on YouTube, Button Poetry published a powerful video titled “To Be Black and Woman and Alive”. The video shows spoken word artists Crystal Valentine and Aailyah Jihad performing the aforementioned piece at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam finals in April of this year.
Zeba Blay of Huffington Post writes:
“These black girls need to watch out, ’cause white girls is winning.”
Thus begins the viscerally honest poem, ‘To Be Black and Woman and Alive,” performed at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational finals in April.
College students Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad teamed up to recite the poem, and Button Poetry posted a video of their performance to Youtube on Sunday, July 19.
“Puerto Rican, Italian, Bajan, Thai — I know they want me to be everything I’m not,” the poets powerfully recite together at one point during the performance explaining the misogyny, colorism, and constant pressure to be more “exotic” looking that black women face.
The poem perfectly encapsulates the reality of being a black woman, highlighting how ironic it is that while black men make black women feel undesirable, black women are also on the front lines of civil rights issues that affect black men — and rarely getting any credit for it.
One of the last, powerful lines in the poem: “I grew up learning how to protect men who hate me…learned how to be the revolution spit-shining their spines.”
Jihad and Valentine (who also performed the profound poem “Black Privilege” at the event), were part of a six-person team of poets representing New York University who eventually went on to win the competition.
This piece is especially important, given the political climate we currently face within the Black community and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The senseless deaths of Black men like Eric Garner and Michael Brown have been the catalysts for worldwide outcry, while similar deaths of Black women like Rekia Boyd have been largely ignored by our community. It is ironic that the same men who expect us as Black women to ride for them every time they experience an injustice in society can often not be bothered to #sayhername when we need the same support in return. The situations surrounding Bill Cosby and Rachel Dolezal come to mind as especially hurtful when put into this context, and Valentine and Jihad capture the essence and agony of what it means to be a Black woman in this world so perfectly in this three minute poem.
Check out the video below to see these two formidable artists in action, and then let us know how you felt about the video in the comments!
PS – Check out Blay’s original HuffPo article here.