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Poetess Stella Binion has just entered the throes of adulthood but she’s wholly grasped the burdens of being a black woman in America.
In her poem “Black Girls Be Boxing,” the 18-year-old high school senior uses the sport of boxing as a backdrop to discuss the experiences of black women and their relentless fight against oppression.
“I tried writing a poem where I stood in the middle of a boxing ring ― a metaphor of black womanhood,” Binion says in the poem.
Binion, who was honored by Michelle Obama as a member of the 2016 class of National Student Poets in September, originally performed the piece at a poetry slam competition in her hometown of Chicago last February. She stopped by The Huffington Post to perform the poem (shown above).
In the poem, Binion artfully shares the emotional blows black women constantly face with lines like:
“Every morning, I look in the mirror and I see black girl hook. Ever since I couldn’t be the princess on the playground because princesses don’t look like me ― open hand hit. The first time I didn’t say anything when n****r slipped through the white boy’s lips ― full crouch. The first time I learned to love myself, everyone still didn’t ― backhand hit.”
Although Binion worked through several revisions of the poem before finalizing it, she said she was committed to performing it for its “exposure of both [black women’s] mistreatment and undying endurance.”
“[Black women] experience so much abuse that is so rarely addressed. The fact that we have to have the toughest skin against constant overt and microagressive racism, sexism, internalized hatred, etc.,” Binion told The Huffington Post.
“Constantly proving our worth and abilities and be okay with not receiving recognition for all our work is unbelievable to me,” she continued.
Binion said she’s long considered black women’s frequent endurance of hardships ― and their ability to overcome them ― comparable to the fight some face during boxing matches.
Black girls be boxing. Breathing the dirt and sweat coated-air of a lifelong bout surviving corruption and poison."
“I’ve always been taken aback by people who don’t understand how traumatic [it] is—like heavy-weight boxers get real brain damage from that physical experience,” Binion said.
“It got me thinking about how that comparison is not too different to the common deterioration of Black women’s sense of self that stems from internalizing constant messages of inferiority. They’re both mental experiences due to outer, violent forces,” she added.
Binion not only uses the boxing metaphor as a depiction of common adversities black women encounter; it also represents her experience writing the poem:
“This poem must be black girl resilience. [It] is me telling you I’m hurt, but breathing still. This poem is not one in which my strength is written and weighed only at the whim of a black boy. Our hurt is more than just his. This poem is all the black girls missing and not looked for. All whose names aren’t said. This poem is me saying them and saying we are magic too.”
This video was produced and shot by Savannah O’Leary and animated by Isabella Carapella.
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