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In a piercing poem entitled “I Used To Think” published in the 1983 poetry collection, Homegirls: A Black Feminist Anthology, writer and editor Chirlane McCray, wife of NYC mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio, tackles narrow European beauty standards and the White supremacy that undergirds them head on.

The poem stands as a powerful literary example of why BLACK GIRLS ROCK! — a non-profit organization established by Beverly Bond to “promote the arts for young women of color, as well as to encourage dialogue and analysis of the ways women of color are portrayed in the media” — is so very necessary.

It also taps into why the organization’s marquee event, ‘Black Girls Rock,’ which aired Sunday, Nov. 3 on BET, has continued to resonate with audiences for four years.

MUST READ: Black Girls STILL Rock! Founder Beverly Bond On The 4th Annual BET Award’s Show

McCray, an unapologetic feminist who identified as a lesbian prior to her marriage to de Blasio, purged her soul of the shame the Black community and United States at-large made her feel about herself. From her “nappy” head to her “big-bottom,” McCray wrote that she “used to think” her Blackness rendered her unworthy of love and that her strength was her greatest weakness.

Read McCray’s poem below via

I Used to Think

©1983 Chirlane McCray

I used to think

I can’t be a poet

because a poem is being everything you can be

in one moment,

speaking with lightning protest

unveiling a fiery intellect

or letting the words drift feather-soft

into the ears of strangers

who will suddenly understand

my beautiful and tortured soul.

But, I’ve spent my life as a Black girl

a nappy-headed, no-haired,


big-bottomed Black girl

and the poem will surely come out wrong

like me.

And, I don’t want everyone looking at me.

If I could be a cream-colored lovely

with gypsy curls,

someone’s pecan dream and sweet sensation,

I’d be poetry in motion

without saying a word

and wouldn’t have to make sense if I did.

If I were beautiful, I could be angry and cute

instead of an evil, pouting mammy b**ch

a ni**er woman, passed over

conquested and passed over,

a ni**er woman

to do it to in the bushes.

My mother tells me

I used to run home crying

that I wanted to be light like my sisters.

She shook her head and told me

there was nothing wrong with my color.

She didn’t tell me I was pretty

(so my head wouldn’t swell up).

Black girls cannot afford to

have illusions of grandeur,

not ass-kicking, too-loud-laughing,

mean and loose Black girls.

And even though in Afrika

I was mistaken for someone’s fine sister or cousin

or neighbor down the way,

even though I swore

never again to walk with my head down,


never to care

that those people who celebrate

the popular brand of beauty

don’t see me,

it still matters.

Looking for a job, it matters.

Standing next to my lover

when someone light gets that

“she ain’t nothin come home with me” expression

it matters.

But it’s not so bad now.

I can laugh about it,

trade stories and write poems

about all those put-downs,

my rage and hiding.

I’m through waiting for minds to change,

the 60’s didn’t put me on a throne

and as many years as I’ve been

Black like ebony

Black like the night

I have seen in the mirror

and the eyes of my sisters

that pretty is the woman in darkness

who flowers with loving.


When asked about the poem, de Blasio, who has made it abundantly clear that the “First Lady” is the love of his life, said that it is a testament to her character:

“It’s a very painful and very challenging poem but very beautiful,” he said in an interview with the Spanish language station La W Radio.

“I love her so deeply and one of the things I love is that she, despite the difficulties she went through, is such a positive and hopeful person and such a creative person. And so that poem really is one of the things that made me fall in love with her.”

McCray’s heart-wrenching poem, which crescendos with purpose and self-actualization, makes it very clear that it is not racist to hold an empowering event such as Black Girls Rock, as some have argued.

The racism lies in a White supremacist nation that continues to marginalize and silence Black women, making Black Girls Rock a non-negotiable necessity.


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