Kate Bartel and Amber Hood Perform “Us Women” Spoken Word Poetry

Kate Bartel and Amber Hood wrote and performed “Us Women” for faculty at Emerson College, October 2016

i (we) learned my silence
The day a professor told me i wasn’t really asian,
(“At least not that kind of asian”)
Ask me why i’m angry
And i’ll tell you the times my mouth has belonged to someone else
I (we) am the aftermath of your curriculum
The moment when it bows out of exotic
white history, is mandatory reading
My history, is a single elective with limited seating
Level 400 had to squeeze in as a senior
Call it competency education
Call me that chick that always tries to tie race in
but there are days
when “woke” just sounds like a buzz word
when this mouth/this body/this history feels too unknown to be my own
Which is to say
I am still unlearning
The parts of myself
I have been taught to be sorry for

i (we) thought it was high art

i assumed it was me a Black girl
from sweat ring brown blue collar
college park Georgia
who didn’t know any better
but the moment i realized my ignorance was a plot devised
by great white American guys
to keep my black ass out of their institutions
i (we) applied to an arts college
with dreams and risks
sewn into my wrists
prophesied that by resisting practically
that i would find happiness in hallways that ring out
lady gaga’s born this way anthem
but how was i to do this
my family dollar deprived
cant do it alone
grandaddy’s good credit
Must be meant for personal loans
because aint nobody giving out full ride scholarships
to black
out of state

us women
mostly second to your curriculum
but first to hear your opinion
are taught early on how to fake a grin
let laughter sift through our teeth
this is battle strategy
Bow our heads in only so many words
and i (we) heard your voice in this institution
before i saw your face
and i (we) knew from the bass in your vibrato
you’ve yet to consider how loud we can be
us women

I (we) will not live as a monolith, no cardboard cutouts
No time for mirroring images of negative expectancy.

I (we) must be patient from the inside
Act swiftly on the outside
Go to work, pay bills meanwhile
practice self care in the between time
Of demanding what is deserved

I (we) need institutions teaching truths. Filling young cheeks with more than fda approved white bread. Teach us that Pizza is not a vegetable. Malnourishment is a result of cultural deficiency.

But i am an American and I want a land of free people brave enough to live in defiance of the proposed ideologies that build walls to fence, to hinder, to capture. Real freedom is not fragile or based on the enslavement of others.

Show me an america
Where James Baldwin who taught me to be comfortable in my black peculiarity
is freedom
Show me an america
where Alice Walker who taught me aint nothin wrong with being a woman
is freedom
Show me an america
Where arundhati and malala paint splatter my pages tell me my body, my mind, my mouth
is freedom
Show me an america
Where the definition of feminism is always in all ways intersectional
Real freedom
Is turning melting pot into potluck
Tolerance and Acceptance are not twins
And my existence is non-negotiable.

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