I’m currently a student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo—a school famous for its engineering programs and infamous for its lack of diversity. There are multiple organizations on campus whose mission it is to promote diversity and inclusivity, and to educate others about marginalized groups. Two of these organizations, the Gender Equity Center and the Cross-Cultural Center, have come together to create a production that does just that. It’s called Cal Poly’s OWN (Original Women’s Narratives): PowHerful Voices of Storytelling and is a play that is comprised of moving stories, poems, and other pieces written and performed by self-identified women who attend Cal Poly. The goal of the production is to present stories, emotions, and experiences from the viewpoint of women who are often left out of other feminist productions and movement. Latina women, black women, women with disabilities, lesbian women, trans women, non-binary women, so on and so forth. Each narrative is a snapshot of what it’s like to deal with sex, race, discrimination, family, school, work, and womenhood.
While I am a Theatre major, I have never really considered myself to be artsy or creative. However, when this production was announced, I decided to submit a piece, both to challenge myself artistically as well as to represent for the few black women at Cal Poly. I wrote sort of an open letter to black women that says the things I wish someone had said to me or that I had known growing up as a black women. My inspiration also comes from my twelve year old niece whom I love very much. I don’t live with her anymore, so sometimes I worry about the messages she’s getting about black women from the media, her friends, and social networks. This letter is for all black women, but especially for her. These are things I want her to learn and embrace as she matures. I’m very self-conscious about my writing (yet here I am starting a blog), but many people found my poem to be empowering, and it’s also the thing that landed me this blog in the first place, so I think it’s only right to make it my first blog post. The poem is called “Dear Black Women”. I hope you all enjoy it.
Dear Black Women
You are not what the media tells you you are.
You are not what society tells you you are.
You are not ugly, obnoxious, unintelligent,
You are not belligerent and unapproachable,
You are not unlovable.
You are not worthless.
You are not a finger-snapping, neck rolling stereotype.
You are not a sex toy for men who want to “see what it’s like,”
You are not supposed to be silent and complicit in your plight
You are supposed to stand up and be heard and fight
When aggression and oppression are weighing down with all their might
Forcing you into a corner that’s small, cramped, and tight
Until you can see no rescue in sight.
Black women, let me help you.
Let this letter be your rescue.
I have been in your place,
Have suffered in your space
The only escape is to realize what you are.
From your hair to your nose to your lips,
From the light to the tan to the dark,
From the thin to the thick to the big,
You are beautiful.
You carry the wisdom of every black woman before you, and the strength of the universe within you.
You are powerful.
You are significant.
You are loved.
If by no one else, then by me,
Because you are all my sisters.
A Black Woman.