NYU student praised for poem titled 'Black Privilege'
- Crystal Valentine, a student at New York University, helped her school secure the first place prize at a national slam poetry competition after performing an original poem titled “Black Privilege.”
- The poem takes the concept of ‘white privilege’ and uses it to address the advantages—or privileges—that black individuals allegedly lack.
“Black Privilege is me pretending to know Trayvon Martin on a first name basis, is me using a dead boy’s name to win a poetry slam…”
New York University student Crystal Valentine used those words to energize her audience and trounce her competition during the recent finals of the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). As one of six NYU students representing the private, Manhattan-based university, Valentine performed a collection of poems including one titled “Black Privilege.”
The poem takes the concept of “white privilege” and uses it to address the advantages—or privileges-that Valentine believes black individuals lack. Strung together, Valentine’s words tell of her experiences and concerns as a young African-American woman:
“Black Privilege is me having already memorized my nephew’s eulogy,
My brother’s eulogy,
My father’s eulogy
My un-conceived child’s eulogy”
“Black Privilege is a myth,
Is a joke, is a punchline
Is that time a teacher asked a little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said alive
Is the way she laughed and said “there’s no college for that”
One section of the poem appears to allude to the infamous video of Eric Garner’s death after police placed him in what has been described as a chokehold.
“Black Privilege is the concrete that holds my breath better than my lungs do
Black Privilege is always having to be the strong one,
Is having a crowbar for a spine,
Is fighting, even when you have no more blood to give”
According to Valentine, “black privilege is a myth, is a joke, is a punchline.”
“[Black privilege] is that time a teacher asked a little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said alive,” Valentine said.
The poem goes on to characterize Al Sharpton as a reliable funeral guest because of his consistent presence in every race debate and controversial situation involving the death of a black man or woman.
“The breath in my mouth is weapon enough to scare a courtroom
I’ll be lucky if I’m alive to make it to the stand
For some people, their trials live longer than they do
Black Privilege is knowing that if I die,
At least Al Sharpton will show up to my funeral
At least Al sharpen will mason jar my mother’s tears”
In 2014, Valentine was awarded the title of New York City Youth Poet Laureate for a poem titled “A Voter’s Problem” which stressed the importance of civic engagement and political awareness.
“Obviously we’re just waiting for something deadlier than rape culture and police brutality to split this world in half. Maybe politics aren't Armageddon enough for us, aren’t spark enough for us, aren’t call to action enough for us,” Valentine wrote in that poem.
Watch Valentine perform the full poem “Black Privilege” below:
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