Dear America: From the "Mad Black Woman"

Nakesha Moore is on her way to becoming well known in the world of contemporary poetry. Currently a featured artist on The Speak Life Tour, Nakesha is sharing her work with audiences all over the country. She started writing as a child and her poetry has grown with her. Each poem reflects real life experiences. She refuses to water anything down. This makes her controversial yet relatable to the masses. A tortured childhood, abusive relationships, and grief are all subjects Nakesha has chosen to delve into honestly. With a raw openness that few possess, she skillfully manages to make you feel every emotion. When asked by a local reporter why she writes, she answered “Because I am a writer”.


Dear America,

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit there are several four-letter words that I was tempted to use in lieu of “Dear”. But when your name is “Nakesha”, you can only push it so far before you’re labeled as the "mad black woman". You know what I mean, the neck-jerking, eye-rolling, finger-snapping stereotype. I grew up hating my name. When I was younger, couldn’t have been older than ten, I remember overhearing my mother tell a friend that it was unfortunate because employers and colleges would know I was black by my name.

Later I asked why she chose to name me that. She told me that she let my father name me because I was his first child. After that it became an ongoing joke. Of course, my alcoholic, drug-addict father would choose a name like “Nakesha”. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t question why people knowing I was black was a bad thing. But it was understood that it was, indeed, a bad thing.

In the 1940’s, Mamie Phipps Clark and her husband conducted a study. They presented children of different races, with a black doll and a white doll. They asked questions like, “Which doll is pretty? Which doll is ugly? Which one is good? Which doll is bad?” Spoiler alert, the black doll was always chosen as the negative answer, even among the black children. Even at elementary school age, black children feel inferior.

The Kenneth en Mamie Clarks' doll experiments grew out of Mamie Clark's master's degree thesis. They published three major papers between 1939 and 1940 on children's self perception related to race. Their studies found contrasts among African-American children attending segregated schools in Washington, DC versus those in integrated schools in New York.

Where does this sense of inferiority stem from? Perhaps it’s not seeing many positive characters of color on their favorite tv shows. Or it could be that most of the required reading in school centers around people who are not brown. Maybe it’s the fact that our history is limited to 28 (29 every four years) days a year. And even that history only dates back to The Middle Passage. I googled “Middle Passage” to ensure that I remembered correctly. This is what I found…

“The Middle Passage refers to the part of the trade where Africans, densely packed onto ships, were transported across the Atlantic to the West Indies.”

Hmmm.

That phrasing does very little to describe the horror of what happened. In school, we learned that America was a melting pot, full of immigrants. We were taught English history, German history, Chinese history, Russian history, Spanish history. Yet, never did we learn any genuine African history. That sends a very clear message of non-importance.

When I became a mother I made a conscious decision that my children would love their skin. And I thought I was successful until my daughter asked me why she had more white Barbie dolls. Without thinking, I answered her honestly. Black dolls cost more. Then I began to wonder why that is. Why do black dolls cost more than an identical white doll?

It’s almost like the toymakers either don’t want us to have black dolls or they know we’ll pay more to get it.

Hmmm.

Last night I watched the BET awards. I don’t keep up with much modern hip-hop but the I like to know what music is popular, because my children hear it at school and come home singing the lyrics. I think it was 3 or 4 years ago when my son told me he “was in love with the coco”. A quick web search let me know the song was not about hot chocolate or coco puff cereal.

An hour or so into the award show, I didn’t know if I should scream or cry. Hip-Hop was born to be a creative form of activism, to empower our people. Last night, I saw scantily clad women simulating sex acts as dance and rappers glorifying drugs, crime, and the degradation of women. And I saw an audience full of people bobbing their hands, and singing and dancing along. And I mourned. I grieve for Public Enemy, KRS-One, Nas and many others. I began to wonder when the message was lost. What happened? Who killed hip-hop. Then I realized. Money. The record execs took the only outlet we had. They paid the artists to sell-out. What was once uplifting, became gravity. And we lost ourselves under the weight. All it took was money. Hmmm.

I used to tell my children that if they are in danger, they can trust a police officer to help them. Now I tell them to “do whatever the officer says, no matter what. Just stay alive. Give me time to get to you and fix it. But you have to do whatever it takes to live.” Every time my children leave for school or camp, I fear that it may be the last time I see them.

Will today be the day that I fit the description? Will my children become orphans? Will I be murdered? Will they say I hung myself with a trash bag? Will they say I attacked them and they had no choice but to kill me? I keep my phone handy, with the camera on the home screen. So that if something happens, I can record. Because surely, if there’s a video and I comply, I’ll be safe. Right? There will be justice, right?

Dear America: Why do you hate me so?

Dear America: My life matters.

Dear America: You lied.

From Nakesha, The Mad Black Woman. (Insert your own eye-roll here)