For When Black & Brown Girls Go Missing & Silence Is An Act Of Violence: A Poetic Tribute
A deep sense of absurdity hangs thick anytime I hear the term “black privilege,” as I automatically associate the term “privilege” with the story that is America. And the story that is America as told in academia, at the state podium, and even inside the church, has almost always been lily-white half-truths by an unreliable narrator, at the expense of black and brown bodies. But if someone asked me today, “What is black privilege?” without burdening myself with the political unpacking of it all, I’d say that part of “black privilege” means long knowing by heart the words to your child’s eulogy, as poet and educator Venessa Marco poignantly hints at after taking the stage at VIBE’s headquarters.
“I think it’s important to note that I’ve written this poem before, that this subject matter comes as no surprise,” she says of the piece she shares in the video below, as tribute to the missing black and brown girls around the nation. “I’m speaking from a place of mourning. Nina Simone once said, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” As POC, we have always been living in times of loss. In writing this poem, I just wanted to stand with my community. I just wanted to have the conversation many of us are being told we do not deserve.”
Poet and program director at Pratt Institute Mahogany L. Browne agrees, simultaneously and perhaps arduously celebrating the beauty that is blackness in all its nuances.
“I caught myself looking at the mothers of the victims of police violence. Their sons gone. Their faces stricken with grief on newspapers and news feeds. I caught myself looking at the forgotten young black and brown women, always asked to provide and stand tall. To be regal and silent. And the silence makes it easy to forget that Black and Brown women are human,” says Browne vehemently after performing her own offering. “This is when the silence becomes an act of violence to a body that wishes to speak. Black and Brown women are asked to be everything to everyone and nothing to themselves. Black Girl Magic was intended as an anthem. There are so few moments we are allowed to been seen as full bodied human beings. This is a celebration for our multitude.”