My Black Friends Laugh When I Tell Them I’m Black
30 Poems In November

I’m black!
… your skin is light

but I’m black!
… well your hair is too curly

but I grew up around all black people
… yeah but you got mad Spanish cousins and y’alls accent gets too thick

when y’all talk fast
Anyways what chu know about being black? What chu know about slavery
Your people didn’t go through Jim Crow or the middle passage
Martin Luther King wasn’t your king. Rosa Parks did not sit for you.

So what chu know about being black?
You don’t even smoke weed!
Or perm your hair
When’s the last time you got a weave?
If you can still get tan in the summer then you ain’t realllllyyyyy black
You said you put sofrito in your ramen… Man you ain’t black!

How many of your family members are currently locked up?
If you can’t name at least five off the top of your head
you ain’t really black.

How many pins have you pinned to your
North Face bag saying R.I.P Trayvon Martin?
Did you even buy the hoodie with his name on it?
Oh, you’re definitely not black.
And no, you can’t call me a nigga
cause even though we grew up together you ain’t realllllly black

I used to braid my hair just like you
I used to perm my hair just like you
All my uncles are locked up just like yours
Man, I stopped wearing pins on my bag because I ran out of space

We all used to go to Brothers’ Market,
buy a cheese slice with a 25 cent tinny after school

So when did I stop being black?
or least when did I stop being black to you?

I know black is not twerk it’s not perm
it’s not whitening cream it’s not violent
it’s not ignorant it’s not give up
Black is strong you taught me that
My skin is too light to be black but too tinted be white
to white America I am black and with justification,

my ancestors exploited through Spanish colonization,
my ancestors brought in the tres cascabeles
La Pinta, La Nina, y La Santa Maria
We are blood sisters because my ancestors’ blood and your ancestors’ blood were both spilled in the boats

My Taino empresses dragged out of their thrones
Your African queens out of the Congo

Tell me again how I’m not black?
How is it that I can be your girl but not your sister?
I’m not asking to be black
I’m asking to be loved
My skin may not be as dark as yours
But I still be queen like you

As part of a month-long event co-sponsored by the Smith College Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, “30 Poems in November” includes student-penned poems for the purpose of raising money (and awareness) about The Center For New Americans. This literacy center provide immigrants (as well as refugees) with the resources needed for them to learn how to read in English.

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