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“To be black and a woman and alive”

By Janelle Floyd
On October 29, 2015

Aaliyah Jihad and Crystal Valentine performed “To Be Black and Woman and Alive” in April, at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational.

“These black girls need to watch out, ‘cause white girls is winning,” the duo powerfully began their poem.

New York University (NYU) college students, Jihad and Valentine addressed a topic known all too well within the African-American community: black men who loathe black women.

While all black men may not think this way, in my opinion, it’s time for a serious thought-provoking conversation, which has been long overdue.

Remembering the first time I questioned myself and my skin color, flashbacks of middle school appear in my head.

In seventh grade, a male friend told me he did not want to date girls “like me”. Flummoxed, I asked him to describe what about “me” was so distasteful.

Holding up his fingers, he gave me four deleterious reasons: black girls don’t go to college, have nasty attitudes, only wear weaves, and mooch off men for money.

At that time, the only thing I could think of was that his frame of mind is not only destructive, but it is hurtful, pernicious and simply not true.

Even to this day, what bothered me more about my friend’s statement, was that he could put all black women into one category. 

As a “college-educated, natural, paying my own way woman”, I simply have to disagree.

Changes are needed now, so that in the future another little black girl won’t be told the same thing.

The first change should be within the home. Parents should teach their children that every shape, size and skin color is uniquely beautiful.

Not everyone is attracted to the same shape, size or skin color and that’s okay. Nonetheless, talking down or demeaning someone you’re not attracted to can leave deep scars that never truly healed.

The next change needed should be with mass media.

Black women are constantly being portrayed as “baby mommas, gold diggers, and the most popular one, as angry black woman.”

In a 2013 study conducted by research consultants Added Value Cheskin and Essence Magazine, 1,200 women were asked to record the media images they saw for a week.

In the study, 85 percent of women reported they regularly saw representations of “baby mamas" and 41 percent recorded seeing strong independent women, girls next door and modern matriarchs.

There is nothing wrong with having a preference, everyone does. What is wrong, is a black man who degrades and talks negatively about black women to show he favors something else, and vise versa.

We are all beautiful, stunning, and we are all children of the most high God. Lets pull each other up instead of tearing each other down.

The duo ended their poem with these powerful words, “To be woman and black is magic. To be black and woman and alive is resilience.”

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