This year, I had the honor of being VCU's Black Excellence Scholarship Winner and being able to recite my poetry at the 2018 Kente Graduation.
I wrote this poem on what Black Excellence means and looks like to me. I believe that excellence is not a standard but, it is a threshold of surpassing the limitations that others have used to box you in. Excellence is not comparative or objective but, it is subjective. In being who you are in all trueness and boldness you are indeed excellent. This is one of my favorite poems I have ever written and/or performed. I hope you enjoy!
Watch me preform the poem at VCU's 2018 Kente Graduation here (starts at 2 minutes)
In 1961 James Baldwin said, “To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.
Brothers and Sisters where is your rage?
Our rage is imprinted in our excellence
When we hear the word Black Excellence we often speak of Maya-
Whoms poems and auras could set this whole room on fire
We speak of Martin Luther King Jr. , whoms dreams and hopes lead us to have the chance to be more than just “colored folk”
We speak of Malcolm and Serena and Barack
The list goes on and on
But how far down in the list do you have to go before you think of the excellence that is all around you
Immigrating to America at 5 years old and being asked if I lived in a tree
Hearing my countries worth downplayed with stories of poverty and Joseph Kony’s
Starting Black History month off with stories of slavery-
Don’t you know our history extends back farther than that?
Seeing our hard work thrashed everytime we see a red cap
”Make America great again”
America you can have your greatness- for Africa,
My Continent you are excellent
I see excellence in my mother whom always worked hard to provide
19, with two kids, in a new country that wasn’t designed for her to thrive
I see excellence
I see excellence in my father whom preachers the Lords good word
To people who have openly shut him out all because “his skin is the color of a turd”
I see excellence.
I see excellence in my little sister whom is getting offered scholarships to go to Harvard
And being told it is because is she black and not because she is smarter
My family you are excellent
I see excellence in all of my chocolate women here at VCU
At the intersection of minorities, I speak on behalf of you
Judged for everything from the style and color of your hair to the amount of melanin in your hue
But still pushing through
To my sisters like me with some hips and some ass-ets
Who are criticised and slut shamed and often thought to be class-less
Who have to be conscious of their clothing choices, to appease the masses
Who still work hard to show that their body is not their only asset
My sisters you are excellent
To my brothers whom are creatives-
Whom rap and whom sing
Who work hard to not get mixed up in the wrong things
Who play sports, who are in college, who are breaking statistics
Don’t think your accomplishments are not being witnessed
To my brothers who are profiled
Careful not to wear your hood
Like Trayvon, people always think that you are up to no good
My brothers you are excellent
From my professor whom wore dashikis and taught of injustice
To my counselors who saw profiling and did their best to hush it
From my sisters who take city buses and walk miles for an education
To my brothers who are just trying to make it and have to work pumps at gas stations
My community you are excellent
Excellence is seen in Oprah Winfrey and through the speech she made
But my friends don’t forget, at a time just like you she was sitting on a couch and watching history being made
To all the other communities, I say this with all the intended shade
The struggles we have been through will never be in vain
Look deeply in our eyes way past all of the pain
And see the excellence
Because it is not going anywhere.
My people we are excellent.