The Average Black Girl X Spoken word by Ernestine Johnson

I was going thru The Arsenio Hall Show YouTube channel a few days ago and was blown away by Ernestine Johnson and her poem “The Average Black Girl”. In this electrifying spoken word performance, Ernestine decries the demeaning stereotypes that black women have to grin through on a daily basis. The piece also contains several historical references that we’d be remiss to not delve into. Indeed, the average black girl is nothing to balk at. Check it out the poem:

They say I’m not the average black girl because I’m so well spoken
Poised, full of etiquette, a white man’s token
You know I remember my ex’s mother telling me, “I didn’t know how I was gonna react when he brought a black girl, but I like you because you talk so white.”
But when did me talking right equate to me talking white?
They say I’m not the average black girl

No! No! Not the average black girl because the pigment of my skin is just a shade lighter than that black girl over there
You know, the black girl over there
The black girl with the nappy hair
The black girls whose elbows can’t skip a day without lotion
Whose hearts and heads are filled up with self-hate and bottled up emotion
The cocoa brown girls who have to face society every day and be tough
Because no matter how good they straighten their hair, their good is still not good enough

Oh, but see. Luckily for me, see
I don’t fall in that category, see

They say I’m not the average black girl because I speak with so much class and
I don’t have too much but just enough ass and
Not too much but just enough pizzazz
You know, just a little bit of attitude
Cos you don’t wanna come off as one of those average black girls and come off as rude
You know, popping their gum and shaking their neck
Yeah, cos those black girls get like no respect
But see luckily for me, see I get pass
Cos the melanin in my skin matches that brown paper bag
And my father, brother and men that I date pants don’t sag
And when I speak, my tongue pronounces every syllable
And the combed part down the middle of hair is naturally visible
Oh! Oh!
It must be a weave or she must be mixed
Cos we all know the average black girl ain’t got that good *#@!%

Or when I walk in a room full of white men, they all stare
It must be the long lengths of my un-average black girl hair

See! See, they say I’m not the average black girl because I corrected the professor when he used the word conversate
Converse! The word is converse
And in case you didn’t get the memo, there are now eight not nine planets in the universe
And when you’re watching the numbers on your stocks move up and down
Remember Oklahoma, in a small town
One of the first Wall Street was a Black Wall Street that got mysteriously burned down

Oh, they say I’m not the average black girl
Well let’s flip this script and rewind this *#@!%
Repaint the lines and have them blurred over time
Because the average black girl that I know…

See, the average black girl that I know made 19 trips through the Underground Railroad to free the slaves
Sat on segregated buses, refused to get up and paved new waves
See, the average black 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
Excuse me, why I set fire to this poem on my pen cos I am tired!
Tired of the stereotypes black girls have fallen into because of American mentality
But not half as tired as Ella Baker, Diane Nash, Septima Poinsette Clark
I am sick and tired of being sick and tired
Miss Fannie Lou Hamer, Daisy Bates, Anna Arnold Hedgeman and Dorothy Height are far more tired than I am
But do you think the ones who say I’m not the average black even give a damn?

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 had courage that surpassed her every fear
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
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 society continuously throws these super silliest words onto me
I say, “No!”
I am not the average black girl, I can only aspire to be.


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