A Black Woman’s Battle Cry

priscilla-du-preez-172598-unsplashJust like I promised last week, here is my piece that was performed in the Original Women’s Narratives Saturday night. Fair warning, there is explicit content in this and it’s a bit longer/stronger than what I usually write.

For good reason.

Growing up, I feel like the conscious stares whenever my classed talked about MLK in elementary school or the mumbled apologies when I walked past someone saying the n word in high school always showed up in my peripherals. Not because I wasn’t ready to notice them– I was– but because I was tired of having to notice them.

Did I ignore the stares? Yes.

Did I accept those apologies with a nod before moving on? Yes.

Should I have? I don’t know. That’s the thing, I don’t quite know where I stand on what it means to stand up for myself without seeming like the angry black woman in my own head.

That doesn’t mean I never said anything.

Sometimes I might stay quiet, but that doesn’t mean I plan to. I let my writing say what I usually won’t. So this is me, my definition and what I know I need to fight for in my own life. What we all need to fight for– not only equality, but equity.

Here is my spoken word poem, A Black Woman’s Battle Cry.

A Black Woman’s Battle Cry

eye-for-ebony-399310-unsplash.jpgWhen I was thirteen, I realized my hair was not like the other girls.

It didn’t swish and sway, shining as I walked.

It didn’t grow past my ass in less than a year.

No, it was different, it was curly, messy, kinky as they say.

All I knew was what it felt like, that I was different.

Then my mother called it one word: nappy.

That is the lifestyle of a black girl living around so many others who look nothing like her;

Standards get confused, unspoken boundaries get crossed

and people might ask me if I get “tanner in the summer”

or “did your hair grow 10 inches overnight?”

All I could ever reply was “sure.”

I let it go.

Because it’s not their fault they were ignorant, that they didn’t know…

Except maybe it was.

In youth, those words are a mistake.

In adulthood, this becomes ignorance.

etty-fidele-407371-unsplash.jpgBecause when the ignorant boys believe in that mistake,

they grown into ignorant men; they belittle me.

Whispers here and there, as I see a nudge and hear the words

“I ain’t never tasted chocolate before.”

As if I am some commodity to be consumed and disposed of.

That is not what I am.

Yet it makes me question exactly what defines that; what defines me beyond my skin color or my hair texture?

My athletic ability or my home life?

My academic record or my grammar usage?

What about my skin color makes it seem like it’s okay to overstep the bounds of being treated like a human being?

No, you may not touch my hair.

No, I do not play basketball.

No, I do not come from a one parent household.

And no, I am not someone you can throw the word “nigga” around with because you think the color of my skin is some invitation to violate the simple rules of morality.

Just because you know someone who looks like me, just because you’re friends with people “like me”

does not mean you know anything about who I am.brannon-naito-414362-unsplash

You do not know me unless I allow you to.

You do not touch me until you hear the word “yes.”

Am I a black girl, born and raised in a nice town, who acts a little more white than black?

Am I an achieving, dedicated student, with brains overlooked for color and assumed to be less than I am?

And am I a minority at one of the most prestigious CSU’S, representing women of my color while holding onto my own identity?

Because I am a scholar, I am an African American, I am a second generation college student, I am a minority,

and I am a woman.

Not a single one of these things alone can define who I am, yet we live in a world where people act like any one of them does.

Where pay is determined by chromosomes.

Where equality is determined by color.

And where opportunity is determined by causation.

So my question is, does society determine my purpose too?

Is it my nappy hair that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the girls;

camila-damasio-2720-unsplash.jpgNo easy “5 minute hairstyles” or “elegant updos done easy” that applies to me in doctors office magazines.

Or maybe the way they see me as a commodity, an opportunity, before tossing me around and treating me like a toy;

Not because my skirt was too short, because I was “asking for it.”

No, because they wanted to try out a darker shade for once.

Or maybe it’s the difference between a man and a women when I do everything I can and yet, my “womanhood” takes away from my proficiency.

Just enough to get paid twenty percent less, take out another dollar for the unprofessionality of my “nappy” hair.

How do we define purpose, define being, without looking past what we see?

How do we make change when so many people do not seem to want to see it at all?

I want to walk into a room and not be judged by my skin or by my body, no. Judge me by my mind.

By my intelligence.

By my character.

For it is believed that being born into different circumstance automatically puts you three steps back from the rest.

As we live in a world where it is assumed that the color of our skin and identified gender are constraints of our being.aman-bhargava-282998-unsplash

But they are not, if anything at all, they are simply boundaries to push,

lines to cross,

and glass ceilings to keep breaking down again and again

until they can exist no longer.

Because I am an African American, nappy haired, powerful woman who wants the equality I deserve.

And I’m ready to break this shit down.

A Little News and New Shoes

john-noonan-420156-unsplashAfter a few sunny days, we’re back to rain here in Slo and we just hit the end of week 9. Finals start in one week. As much as I want to say time crept up on me, it didn’t.

Between work and class and the life of a college student, things have been pretty busy for me this quarter— way busier than I ever was last year. I like to look back and wonder what I did with all my free time… Then again, I know I spent it all on chemistry. Yet here we are again, almost prep week for winter quarter and I can’t say I’m too excited for it. Lucky for me, there is one thing I have to look forward to before we get to the real grind.

I’ve got some more news for you today!

Last year my parents came down for Nick and my birthday and it just so happened that there was a show on campus that Saturday night. We weren’t sure what it was, just that it was called the Original Women’s Narratives (OWN) and we were offered free tickets for it. They were free after all, so we went without any idea what we were getting into.

I’m really glad we did.

The show turned out to be incredible, a play completely run, directed, and acted out by woman-identifying students from all cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life. The best part about it? It was all written by the students. The play took us through the writer’s experiences from mental health and sexual harassment, to discrimination against race or sexuality. Each and every story told brought you into their lives, giving you a chance to walk around in their shoes for a bit.

To try them on for size.

So why am I telling you about the show, considering I went to it almost a year ago?

I’m telling you because this time, my story is about to be told on that stage. Tomorrow james-baldwin-276255-unsplashnight.

One of the beautiful things I think this play does is that it allows students to show people who they are or what they’ve been through. In letting us submit our own pieces to the show coordinators and even audition for the part, it’s amazing to see what comes out of it.

This year, I wasn’t so sure about getting up there two days in a row to tell the world about my experiences and my struggles in life. If you know me, you’d know that I am (for the most part) an introvert; that’s changed a little bit since college, but not that much. I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of girl, so I submitted my piece to be performed rather than auditioning to perform it myself.

In retrospect, I probably should have shoved myself out of my comfort zone to perform it anyway, after all, that’s what college is about. But I remember the feeling of sitting in that audience, hearing those stories for the first time– the echo of snaps sounding throughout the room, the power emanating off that stage. It was something worth putting my own writing into. And I’m SO excited to see what they decided to do with it.

Because sometimes we put our work out there, we lay ourselves out for show, and all we can do is wait to see what happens. Sometimes, we get rejected. We don’t quite fit the bill.

And sometimes, we allow the vulnerability to happen only to find that the payoff is so much more than we could have imagined. We make new friends and memories, find more outlets and opportunities… When we take a chance on ourselves, in our lives and in our work, we give ourselves a chance to be something we haven’t been yet— better.

In putting my writing on display, I am taking a small step out of my comfort zone to share my life and my voice with the world around me. priscilla-du-preez-172598-unsplashThough I don’t know yet whether my words will be rejected or accepted, maybe that isn’t always the point. Maybe the point is to do it despite the uncertainty, to let ourselves be afraid of the outcome but willing to grow with whatever comes next.

I think I’m ready to wait and see what happens tomorrow night, to watch my Original Woman’s Narrative be played out in front of me.

So keep an eye out for Tuesday’s new Poetry Place where I get to share my piece, A Black Woman’s Battle Cry, with YOU!

And who knows, maybe next year, I’ll get up there and perform it myself.

If you have your own story, as I’m sure you all do, let me know in the comments below. What is one thing that made you so much of who you are today?