Black: My 14-Year-Old Cousin’s Brilliant Spoken Word for Black History Month

Chikumbutso
Chikumbutso

My little cousin, Chiku, was  born here in Vancouver on this day 14 years ago. I’ve watched her grow up and I’m so proud of her in many ways. While I was at her house yesterday evening she shared a spoken word she had written and performed for Black History Month. Since then she has been chosen to represent her school in a spoken word competition, and she has been asked to perform her poem several times in the past few weeks.  I was honestly speechless when I read it. She was gracious enough to allow me to post it here (as long as I credit her!).  I applaud her for being ready to share her thoughts and experiences with her classmates.

Chiku’s Spoken Word- Black

You don’t decide how I act. I was white-washed so I had myself blacked.  I’m Shaniqua, you said I was ghetto, and it was loud like a cello and it rang with an echo. My mother and my father they gave me this colour. That’s what makes me black. When you said I was white I was taken aback. If I were to talk intelligently and properly like this, that wouldn’t make me less of what I am. The black girl with big hair, that hit me with a bam. You’ve missed out on my inside, the part I have to hide.

            My facial features don’t have to be a certain way, my personality doesn’t have to be a certain way. I’m not a typical black person, what does that mean? I have a kind of music and it’s not very clean. Did you know I have to be into black stuff? Did you know light and dark together are rough? Am I not black enough? Sometimes I’m too black and it gets rough. Yes, I read. Yes, I stay out of trouble. Yes, I like the same things you do, so am I not black? We don’t get the privilege, the privilege we want so bad. If I’m a thug, you’re just crazy. If I die, I’m another statistic, but if you, you’re an icon and celebrity. If I’m an addict, nobody will care for me and I’ll live up to my stereotypes, but if you’re an addict, you have hope and can become an amazing inspiration.

            I can see you, I can feel you, those eyes through my soul. Learning about my history, the back of my neck a hole. I give no reaction, just this feeling of awkward. Look away, look away, you might just be a stalker.

            My history, my Africa, taught to me by myself. We learn about Europe while we sit on a shelf. My continent unknown, they sit on a throne. Full of history, cultures, languages, and different people but we’ve been blended into one.

            I’ve jumped a thousand cliffs just to get you to listen but look at this division. They say get over the slavery, forget their bravery? That word, the word written all over my skin. N.I.G., when will we win? You say it with a grin, you say it with a sin. The rappers they say it, they make it okay. But in the end, I’m the prey. I’ll get over the slavery when you get over the war. Go away, go away, your words are a chore.

            I have no choice but to forgive. Because I’m a minority, I don’t get to live. Pat, pat, pat, the hands on my head. I have to be easy going, I won’t snap like lead. Let me pet your hair, as though I’m your dog. Dead cells, different texture, it’s not a pleasure.

            Where are you from? Born and raised British Columbian and not in a slum. Where are you really from? Born and raised British Columbian and not in a slum. Your parents? From Malawi where it was nice and pleasant. So you’re African-American? No. I’m just a citizen of Canada. My ancestors never came to North America. They were never taken for slaves. I’m from the South, not the West, not the West from over the waves. An African-American will never know their roots from Africa because their ancestors were forced to America. Do you speak African? There are 2000 languages and more in Africa. We aren’t one big blur for you to decipher.

            I’m black. I’m not warm earth, an indirect way of calling me dirt behind my back. I’m not a cappuccino, I’m not a one colour fits all. I’m not caramel, I don’t have a natural tan that stays through and after the fall. Makeup makes me into dirt and food and if you ask me, that’s a little bit rude. This skin isn’t tanned, what makes you think that your skin is the right colour to be in this land.

            It’s annoying, it’s hard, apparently I look charred. I love myself anyway. My big “horrible” hair, I love it anyway. Being compared and being stared at, I love my skin anyway. Being mistaken and being held unknown, I love my ethnicity anyway. Being treated differently because of my skin, I love you anyway. Having to be a certain way, I still hate society for that. The kid in kindergarten wanted my ‘skin colour’ crayon, I gave him a brown crayon, he was a brat. Happy Black History Month.

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20 thoughts on “Black: My 14-Year-Old Cousin’s Brilliant Spoken Word for Black History Month

  1. Wow! As amazing as it is that Chiku has written this (I didn’t even know what an “ethnic minority” was when I was 14 — and was shocked when I later learned its true meaning), it is just as incredible that she has you to advocate and cheer for her. Congrats to you both! *Please let Chiku know I’ve been quoting lines of her poem 🙂

    1. Thanks Sonay! I had absolutely no idea about the term until well into my 20s! Chiku’s parents are still stunned by what she wrote, they had no idea she felt that way, though we’ve all heard the crayon story before. I will let Chiku know, thank you! Do you remember meeting her at the Malawi-Mozambique party? I think she remembers you:)

  2. Oh wow. So much love to Chiku ❤

    "My history, my Africa, taught to me by myself. We learn about Europe while we sit on a shelf. My continent unknown, they sit on a throne. Full of history, cultures, languages, and different people but we’ve been blended into one."

    *so* eloquent

  3. Chiku has an absolutely amazing way with words! So very eloquent and yet with so much raw emotion shining through, love it.

  4. “That word, the word written all over my skin. N.I.G., when will we win? You say it with a grin, you say it with a sin. The rappers they say it, they make it okay. But in the end, I’m the prey. I’ll get over the slavery when you get over the war. ” Love it!

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