Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad reciting “To Be Black and Woman and Alive”
YouTube screenshot

Two college students took the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational by storm with their poem that describes some of the harshest realities black women face courtesy of some black men. Sometimes the strongest hatred toward black women comes from black men, and Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad’s poem, “To Be Black and Woman and Alive,” speaks about the feelings that evokes.

Although Valentine and Jihad performed the piece in April, their performance has gone viral since the poetry slam was posted on YouTube Saturday.

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“I grew up learning how to protect men who hate me … learned how to be the revolution spit-shining their spines,” the poets recited.

It’s that line that echoes the sentiments of a lot of black women. Oftentimes, black women are raised to defend and protect black men at all costs, but when it comes to reciprocity, sometimes it’s just not there.

Jihad and Valentine’s performance also touches on the subject of colorism and how being a black woman often doesn’t cut it, because some black men want the “exotic.”

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“Puerto Rican, Italian, Bajan, Thai—I know they want me to be everything I’m not,” the poets shouted.

The last lines in the poem are not only a powerful testament to black women but also deserve to be repeated over and over again, and pay tribute to those black women who have fought and still fight to be heard:

To be black and woman and alive is to be resilient
My very existence is defiance

Take a look at their performance below:

As one friend posted on Facebook a few weeks ago, if you happen to be a black man with something negative to say about black women, write it down on a piece of paper, fold it up and give it to your mother. Or better yet, just send it as a text message.