10 Things I Want To Say to a Black Woman
By Joshua Bennett
Read by Samuel Yakura
1. I wish I could put your voice in a jar. Wait for those lonely winter nights when I forget what God sounds like, run to the nearest maximum security prison and open it. Watch the notes bounce off the walls like ricochet bullets etching keyholes into the sternums of every brother in the room. Skeletons opening, rose blossom beautiful to remind you that the way to a black man’s heart is not through his stomach, it is through the heaven in your hello, the echo of my unborn galaxy that pounces forth through your vocal chords, and melts ice grills into oceans, baptizing our lips, until harsh words fade from our memories, and we forget why we stopped calling you divine in the first place.
2. When I was born, my mother’s smile was so bright it knocked the air from my lungs. And I haven’t been able to breathe right since. It’s something about the way light dances off of your teeth. The way the moon gets jealous when you mock her crescent figure with the shape of your mouth, queen. You make the sky insecure. Self-conscious for being forced stares at your face every morning, and realize that the blues of her skin was painted by that symphony doing cartwheels on your tongue.
3. Who else can make kings out of bastards? Turn a fatherless Christmas into a floor full of gifts and a kitchen that smells like the lord is coming tomorrow. We must eat well tonight. I used to think my sister was a blacksmith. The way she put fire and metal and made kitchen miracles at 14. Making enough food to feed a little boy who didn’t have the words to say how much she meant to him back then, or didn’t have backbone to say so the day he turned 20.
4. Your skin reminds me of everything beautiful I have ever known. The color of ink on a page, the earth we walk on, and the cross that held my savior.
5. I’ve seen you crucified too. Spread out on billboards to be spiritually impaled by millions of men with eyes like nails, who make martyrs of your daughters. So I’m sorry for the music videos, for Justin Timberlake at the Superbowl, and the young man on the corner this morning. Made you just want to shed your flesh and become invisible. Never doubt, they only insult you because… men are confused. We’re trained to destroy or conquer everything we see from birth.
6. If I ever see Don Imus in public I’ll punch him in the face, one time, for every member of the Rutgers and Tennessee women’s basketball teams. Then I’ll show him a picture of Phylicia Rashad, Assata Shakur, Eartha Kitt, my mother, my grandmother, and my 7 year old niece who’s got eyes like fire bombs, and then dare him to tell me that Black women are only beautiful in one shade of skin.
7. You are like a sunrise in a nation at war. You remind people that there is always something worth waking up to.
8. When we are married I will cook. Do the dishes, and whatever else it takes to let you know that traditional gender roles have no place in the home we build. So my last name is an option. Babysitting the kids a treat we split equally, and our bed will be an ancient temple, where I construct altars of wax on the small of your back. We make love like the sky is falling; moving to the rhythm of bed springs and Bel Biv DeVoe, angels applauding in unison, saying this is the way it was meant to be.
9. My daughter will know her father’s face from the day she is born. And I can only pray that this superman complex lasts long enough for me to deflect the pain this world will aim at her from the moment she’s old enough to realize that the color brown is still not considered human most places. But my daughter will have a smile like a wheelchair, and so even when I am at my worst, when the kryptonite of this putrid planet threatens to render me grounded, the light dancing off of her teeth will transform the shards of my broken body into heart-shaped blackbirds, taking flight on the wind that reminds me of my savior’s hands, of my daughter’s smile, of my mother’s laugh when I was in her womb.
10. Never stop pushing. This world needs you now more than ever.
Directed by Matthew Thompson.
"10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman" (after Falu) by Dr. Joshua Bennett.