Alexia Kambode, an A Level student at Loreto, spoke at this week’s commuituesday event, celebrating Black History Month. Below is an excerpt of what she delivered:
This was a speech I heard a couple of years ago, and I really liked it because it spoke to me on a personal level. It’s written by a woman called Ernestine Johnson, and it explores what is probably the most backhanded compliment I tend to receive.
“Oh, they say I’m not the average Black girl. Well, let’s flip the script and rewind this, repaint the lines that have been blurred over time. Because the average Black girl that I know? See, the average Black girl I know made 19 trips through the underground railroad to free the slaves. Sat on segregated buses, refused to get up, and paved new ways. See, the average Black girl that I know? The average Black girl that I know were Egyptian queens like Hatshepsut and Nitocris who were ruling dynasties and whole armies of men. And excuse me while I set fire to this poem and my pen because I am tired. Tired of the stereotypes Black girls have fallen into because of American mentality. Oh, but not half as tired as Ella Baker. Dianne Nash. Septima Pointsette Clark. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, Miss Fannie Lou Hamer. Daisy Bates, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, and Dorothy Heights are far more tired than I am.
But do you think the ones who say I am not the average Black girl even give a damn? No. So pardon me if I can’t openly accept your compliments. Pardon me if I can’t openly accept your compliment. It’s just the average Black girl that I know, the average Black girl that I know has courage that surpassed her every year, and fought for justice and equality year after year. So as I construct these words, pardon me as I shed a tear, because I’m not half the Black girl she was.
I am not half the Black girl she was. See, there’s a minor clause. See, she was out there fighting, breaking, and changing laws. So I bow down to my Black queen standing in the merit of her work. And as America’s society continuously throws these supercilious words unto me, I say no. I’m not the average Black girl. I can only aspire to be