Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Black Woman's Smile

Poetry is really speaking to me this week, it seems: I stumbled onto this video of a spoken word performance by the American poet Ty Gray-EL purely by accident yesterday evening (but there are no accidents, right?!) and shared it with a few friends, including TRex, who posted it on his blog. This morning, I dug around and found the words, too, for those who can't turn up the volume until they get home. Be moved; be inspired.

A Black Woman’s Smile
by Ty Gray-EL

Do you know how strong you have to be to make a black woman smile?
Do you have any idea what an accomplishment that is?
She has borne the weight of this country on her back for 400 years.
She has suffered the agony of unassisted, husband-less childrearing since the 1600’s.
Have you any idea how much strength it takes to put a smile on her face?
You need the strength of Sampson, the nerve of Joshua and the courage of David facing Goliath.
Cause she has cultivated in her womb the marvel of the universe, only to have her hopes and dreams aborted and her aspirations show up dead on arrival.
She has given birth to kings and queens and delivered on her majestic promise only to have her children kidnapped and sold to a criminal with no respect for her royalty.
If you can make a black woman smile, you are a miracle worker.
Imagine breastfeeding your child in Virginia and having snatched from your arms, branded; hijacked to Louisiana and publicly fondled on a New Orleans auction block.
If the memory of that pain was locked-bound in your DNA, would you be smiling?
If you breast-fed someone else’s child only to watch her grow old enough to call you Darky, Pickaninny and Nappy-headed Jigaboo, you wouldn’t be smiling either.
If you can make a black woman smile you have DONE something.
If you can make her smile you are stronger than Atlas, cause God knows she has been.
She’s been raped and ravaged and scorned and nearly annihilated.
She’s been pimped and pummeled and stoned and deliberately depreciated.
She has cooked and cleaned and sewn...and never been compensated.
She’s been forced to watch the offspring of her loins mangled and maligned across centuries.
Her character has been continuously smeared, assassinated over and over and over; again and again and again.
You ever thought about how strong you have to be, just to BE a black woman?
She’s had to make brick without straw after being stripped of all her customs, stripped of all her culture, stripped of all her traditions.
No other woman in the history of the civilized world has gone what she has gone through.
No other beings on the planet have endured what she has endured.
She’s been chastised, criticized, demonized and terrorized.
She’s had to stand when her man was bull-whipped for trying to stand.
She’s had to stand when her man was castrated for trying to stand.
She’s had to stand when her man was hung by his neck for trying to stand.
She’s had to carry her man, cause every time he tried to carry himself, he was murdered for trying to do so.
Ask Betty Shabazz about Malcolm; ask Corretta Scott King about Martin; ask Emmett Till’s mother.
If you can make a black woman smile you have achieved something.
Since 1619 when we came in chains, the entire world’s been messing with her brain, disrespecting her, calling her out of her name, and she’s tired, just plain Fanny-Lou-Hamer-tired.
Tired of being called B-words, and H-words and N-words and other-words and everything except the child of God that she is.
But the one thing in this world that will make a black woman smile is her man.
A real man!
If you’re doing what you’re supposed to do she will smile she will smile regularly and gladly.
So, man up my brother.
Man up and make your woman smile.
Treat her like the Queen that she is.
She deserves it.
And recognize this:
In all of God’s Creation there is nothing more alluring, more appealing, or attractive; nothing more beautiful, more charismatic, more charming or captivating; nothing more delightful, more elegant, or exquisite; nothing more fascinating, more gorgeous, more inspiring, or intoxicating; nothing more magnificent or lovely than a Black Woman’s Smile.


  1. As a black woman, I know this to be true! At a celluar level, the memory of the past 400 years has and will continue to be passed on. Yet we remain standing

  2. I thank my nephew for sharing this with me. I LOVE IT.

  3. I really love this poem and hope to pass it on to young black women in this age and time

  4. I really love this poem and hope to pass it on to young black women in this age and time