A Black Herstory Slam Redux

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A Black Herstory Slam Redux

This past February, the Women’s Resources Center at the University of Illinois sponsored Black Herstory Slam, an open mic devoted to poetry, spoken word, and performance that highlights Black women’s history and black feminist thought. Held at the University of Illinois Women’s Resources Center, Writ n’ Rhymed is described as “a transformative poetic space created at the University of Illinois. It is a space for art, poetry, spoken word, music, movement, prose, rhyme, performance, and critical engagement.” The Black Herstory Slam brought together over 150 attendees, featured performances from twelve talented poets, and was co-hosted by Jameelah McCrigg and Dominique Coker.

The following represent selected works performed during this year’s Black Herstory Slam, published here with permission from the poets in honor of Women’s History Month:



By Kerry Wilson


My hair is long but it’s nappy

I never match my socks

My hands stay out my pockets everywhere except the bookstore

So you can accuse me of stealing this knowledge

The figment of my imagination is a stigmatism that I use to justify those overpriced glasses I get from LensCrafters…

Or is grad school just effing with my vision?

I act like your BS is a non-factor

But it keeps me up at night

When my diction contradicts your fiction of my black girl truths

My tongue bleeds from holding back my black girl blues


I’ve cracked cell phone screens and shattered my momma’s champagne glasses

I’ve broken hearts by taking the wrong chances

My actions divide like fractions

Tell the story like close captions

“Eff what ya heard” is my usual reaction

I want to be free to do what I choose

Cause I get so tired of this black girl blues


If I’m being realistic, I look in the mirror and I still see a statistic

The stigma of teenage motherhood is so fatalistic that there isn’t a damn thing I can do to get away from it

I woke up like this

A dark-skinned, thick-chick who refuses to measure her worth in sex, drugs, and rock and roll

And on judgement day I’ll end up bargaining for my soul

This I know for true

I’ll live and I’ll die singing this black girl blues




by Kerry Wilson

My swagger cut you like daggers until it don’t

2pac foreshadowed his end but see I won’t

Instead I think I’ll heed the call

To quick fucking with those waterfalls

I’m looking for my crescendo


You know the “that’s my part” part of the song

When the notes get extra long

The oh God give me a reason,

Wanya throwing chairs and ish cuz we’ve come to End of the Road

My crescendo

The place of pure emotion, the place to let it go


Give me a crescendo

Like when he say “I effed up and I need you to stay with me”

Or when she say “yeah you effed up, I still love you but you gots to leave”

I need my break it down to the nitty, gritty

No Bad Boy Remix, and No P. Diddy

You think you know, but do you really

These pinned up emotions inside could actually kill me

But it’s time to let it go…


Like parachute pants and the humpty dance

It was fun while it lasted

I can’t live my live all chopped and screwed

Just cuz I like it when the beat gets spastic

These plastic emotions cause oceans of pain

There’s absolutely nothing to gain

From putting out the fire with acid rain

Instead give me a crescendo


And I need it…

I need it like I need

Hip-hop before the bling

Michael Jordan before the ring

Lauryn Hill before that thing

Chews me up and swallows me whole

Find my crescendo

Save another black woman’s soul




by Anne Namatsi Lutomia

I refuse to be silenced

I will speak so that I and others can be heard

You do not want me to speak

You say I am too noisy, uncontrollable and bad mannered

You call me a lesbian, a man hater, a witch, a mad woman

You call me a slut, uncircumcised, barren, childless, foolish, ugly, a prostitute

You slap me so as to discipline me

You tell me that I have a long mouth

You tell me to shut up

You not only want to silence me

You silence others like me

You instill fear in us

You want us to keep quiet

You say no one will believe me if I speak

You want me to say nothing

I who you have raped, molested, battered, butchered, undressed, beaten, slapped, abused and shamed

I who is gazed at, shunned, goaded, stared at, and whispered about

You coin stereotypes about me that silence me as you all laugh at me

Forcing me to laugh with you as I hurt

I am your sister, mother, friend, lover, niece, grandmother, daughter, and wife

You want me to be quiet because you are powerful, famous, privileged and respected

You want me to dust myself and move on

Today I choose to speak

I want the world to hear and listen to my pain

I speak because together we can stop this hurt

I refuse to be silenced


Kerry Wilson is a doctoral student in the Institute for Communications Research in the College of Media and Anne Namatsi Lutomia is a doctoral student in Human Resource Education in the College of Education. The Black Herstory Slam was co-sponsored by the Women’s Resources Center, the Bruce D. Nesbitt African-American Cultural Center, W.O.R.D. and Black Students for Revolution (BSFR) in honor of Black History Month.

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