“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.