The Poem ‘To Be Black and Woman and Alive’ Says Everything You Need to Hear [VIDEO]

Few accounts of Black womanhood are as poignant as the one presented here by Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad. The poem, “To be Black and woman and alive” was performed at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational finals this April. Only recently posted to YouTube, the moving and powerful poem summarizes the hypocritical hatred toward Black women that many Black men express. 

At one point in the performance, the young college-aged women slow their pace and say, “I want an educated woman. I’m not talking ‘book smart.’ I’m talking ‘sheet smart.’ A woman who understands the actual purpose of her mouth.” Highlighting the fact that Black women’s bodies are often hypersexualized by Black men, their words articulate how the objectification of women is rooted in a narrative of sexual exploitability.

At the performance’s climax, the young women chant “To be woman and Black is to be magic. Is to be the witch that wouldn’t burn. Is to survive the White man with their needles nd nooses…to be Black, and woman, and alive is to be resilient.” The rallying cry professes pride in Black womanhood despite societal efforts to silence and erase them.

These two NYU students were a part of a six-person team which ended up winning the competition. Watch the full poem above.

Photo credit: YouTube/Still


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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.