Black girls smile like Magnolias at midnight. Can you see them? Their sandpaper bodies, everyone rubs against them, smoothin’ out their prickly eyes and sharp words, grate down sides, perfectin’ that smooth for someone else.
I feel every slow scrape of human against my flesh, bumpy, bloody. I know what white hands look like, scratchin’ and takin’; what black hands look like, pullin’ and takin’. They leave me with nothing.
Black girls have a way about us of not screamin’ when we should because then they call us “black girls,” not “little girls, defenseless girls,” “angry girls.”
That’s what they call us, “angry girl.” I am unruly and displeasing with my wild hair and mean scowl, too out of place for proper company, can’t let anyone know you hungah, diggin’ into this flesh.
Black girls smile when we want to scream. Smile: survival skill; pull inches of lip over teeth polished hard with the lick of my tongue and thin callused fingers.
We black girls stretch our hands into each others’ mouths, corrupt screams so we forget our own sitting at the base of our throats. We rub until we can smile in each others’ faces, Mr. Glint of Anger outshined by the gleam of our teeth.
Can you hear the chatter? These teeth are nervous. See, they caught a scream on its way out, and now it’s fightin’, [weighing 00:01:53] here, and I’m wondering what’ll happen if I let it go, scream about it until this skin doesn’t burn and these breasts don’t weigh heavy, until I forget that this country was nursed from this body.
White lips, sucking and taking; black lips, sucking and taking. What is there left for us? Black girls make blessings out of nothing, turn moaning aches into rocking lullabies, wrap our bodies around stone and build a home, take the scraps you left behind and fill it with nourishment so you can survive, so we all survive, and we smile so one day we can thrive.
I smile so when everyone is done taking what they need and the lights go out, someone might catch the swipe of shine from my teeth. They might notice me standing silent in the dark and remember us black girls who smile like Magnolias at midnight, ancient mothers dancing on the back of darkness, warming our chills with moonlight until we are seen blooming bold and loud.
Do you see me here, grinnin’ hard, not because I’m happy, but so you see me. Do you see me? (applause)