Aja Monet’s #SayHerName Poem Asks All to Remember

Aja Monet’s #SayHerName Poem Asks All to Remember2016-11-29T17:39:13-05:00

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Piercing through the silence a strong and ardent voice emerges. The Poet, Aja Monet is heard to say, “Melissa Williams, Darnisha Harris, Michelle Cassell.” These are the names of many of the girls and women who were injured or killed by police. Sadly, too few have heard their names before or seen them in print. This begs the question. Why is that? Why is it that little girls and women of color are brutalized and yet, rarely is it mentioned? Why do we not march and rally for all of the girls and women who lost their innocence — lives and limbs? Why is there is silence? “Why?” Perhaps, beneath these questions is another. What does it mean to be a girl child of color, a woman dark in complexion, a Black Woman in America?

It means as a Black Girl you are Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected. This is a persistent problem. Even in our schools, Black girls are more likely to be hit and told that they are unfit. Their bodies and beings are not exalted. All too often our girls, women of color, are assaulted. Black girls are not safe. When in the presence of police, some, too many are raped. Black women know that for them, an invisible betrayal awaits

Granted, as Poet Aja Monet relates, “[I]t’s difficult to quantify any brutality against human beings. It’s not more difficult when it comes to black women. I think it’s just easier for us to ignore them because if we acknowledge them then we must acknowledge all of the women affected by violence and brutality, not just by police but by an entire patriarchal, racist system.”

So what do we do? What do we say? We pay homage by proclaiming #BlackLivesMatter, but in action we do not #SayHerName. As Aja explains, “We keep scratching the surface of these issues and neglecting the root, which is this country never loved black people, and of course that meant black women. We who birth the men they also hate. We are an extension of each other.”

If we do not acknowledge what might easily be a Black woman’s fate will her story be reported? Will our children of color, our Black women be just another of the countless unseen? Not if Aja Monet has anything to say about it Her heart speaks. Her voice quivers. Through her words we hear much wisdom. The strength of Black women is revealed. Aja Monet reminds us to never forget the “bodies haunted by pellet wounds.” And yes, please “in the valley of a voice ” #SayHerName.

Word Warriors #SayHerName

By Aja Monet. May 21, 2015

I am a woman carrying other women
in my mouth
behold a sister
a daughter
a mother
dear friend
spirits demystify
on my tongue

they gather to breath
and exhale a dance with the death we know
is not the end all these nameless
bodies haunted by pellet wounds in their chests
listen for them and the saying of a name you cannot pronounce

black and woman is a sort of magic
you cannot hash tag
the mere weight
of it too vast to be held

we hold ourselves
an inheritance felt between the hips
womb of soft darkness portal of light
watch them envy the revolution of our movement
how we break open to give life flow

while the terror of our tears the torment of our taste
my rage
is righteous my love is righteous
my name
be righteous here what I am not here to say
we too have died we know we are dying too

I am not here to say look at me how I died
so brutal a death I deserve a name to fit all the horror in
I am here to tell you how if they mentioned me
in their protest and their rallies
they would have to face their role in it too
my beauty too

I have died many times before
the blow to the body
I have bled
many months before the bullet to the flesh we know
the body is not the end
call it what you will
but for all the handcuffed wrists of us the shackled
ankles of us
the bend over to make room for you
of us how dare we speak anything less
then I love you

we who love just as loudly in the thunderous
rain as when the Sun shines golden on our skin
and the world kisses us unapologetically we
be so beautiful when we be- how you gonna be free
without me

your freedom tied up
with mine at the nappy edge of my soul
singing for all my sisters watch them stretch their
arms and my voice how they fly open chested
toward your ear
listen for
Rekia Boyd, Tanisha Anderson Yvette Smith
Aiyana Jones
Caleb Moore Shelly Frey
Miriam Carey Kendra James
Alberto Spruill, Tarika Wilson,
Shereese Francis
Shantel Davis, Malissa Williams
Darnisha Harris Michelle Cassell
Pearlie Golden, Kathryn Johnston
Eleanor Bumpers, Natasha McKenna
Sheneque Proctor

we will not vanish
and the baited breath of our brothers
show me show me
a man willing to fight beside me
my hand in his the color of courage

there is no mountaintop worth
seeing without us
meet me
in the trenches where we lay our bodies down
in the valley of a voice
say her name

Aja Monet is a poet. In 2007, at the age of nineteen, Aja Monet became the youngest individual to win the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe Grand Slam champion title. She works as an inner-city youth mentor and is staff faculty at Omega Institute, using poetry and prose as a holistic healing tool. Aja Monet independently published her first book of poetry, The Black Unicorn Sings (Penmanship Books), in 2010, and in the fall of 2012 collaborated with poet/musician Saul Williams on the book Chorus: a literary mixtape (MTV books/Simon & Schuster). She is currently writing Science-Fiction.

This piece was reprinted by EmpathyEducates with permission or license. We thank the Author, Poet Aja Monet for her kindness, forceful and heartfelt expression and what we believe invites a vital reflection.

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