For Malcolm

I was born on your birthday

May 19th on a Wednesday

I never had a father

But Instead I had your picture hanging in my bedroom

Your books on my shelf

There was never a time in my life where you were absent

Where you weren’t spoken of

Where you weren’t present

“Our beautiful Black Prince” my mother used to say

Rubbing her fingers on the frame of your glasses

Years passed and I got older

Years passed and things got harder

Years passed and as time accumulated, my sense of self-worth diminished

Self-worth ripped out of my scalp by the mayonnaise troupes

Deeming my Afro ugly and unprofessional

Self worth beaten out of my flesh

Left bruised and battered by fists that see me as an object for their exotic entertainment

Just when I believed there was none left, the remaining drops of self worth oozed out of my flesh one night in October

A brisk night in the October of my freshman year

Behind the bricks of the Psi Upsilon frat house

When a frat brother decided to rape me

He smeared my blood and drops of self worth on the walls of the frat house

Erecting tombstones on the parts of myself that no longer were

I ran

I ran into the night alone, reminders of the death that took place stained on my shirt and torn on my underwear

For years I grieved

For years I suffered in silence

For years I felt so guilty about what he had done

Guilty for his violence

Guilty for his insolence

Guilty for his teeth, his fingers and his lips and how he used them as weapons

Because that is what society tells survivors to do

Trains us to do

Forces us to do

That we must internalize any injustice and act of violence and see it as a reflection

But you never taught me that Malcolm

You never told me that Malcolm

When I saw tombstones pitched over the fragments of my self worth

You heard a heartbeat

You felt a pulse

Three years later and you urged me to report

You taught me the everlasting power embedded in my voice

You taught me the ever more stifling power of my silence

I remember you once said:

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.

The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.

The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

I had the right to be angry

I had the right to speak out, rage foaming, spurting from my mouth

You taught me how to utilize my rage Malcolm

How not to be afraid or guilty about my feelings

I had your picture on my bedroom wall the day I chose to report my rapist

You encouraged me to dial the number

But most of all you encouraged me to look at myself the way you look at me

You saw no tombstones

You saw no weakness

You saw no shame or filth under my bruised skin

You only saw strength in my melanin

You only saw beauty in the curly crown upon my head

You only saw power in my fists

Because of your guidance I step out into the world as the woman I am today

I am outspoken

I am determined

I am vicious

I will take each step with my fists raised

My mouth open

My teeth baring

Because you taught me to declare my right to this earth

To declare my right as a human being

To be given the rights of a human being in this society on this earth

You taught me to fight for what’s mine

Because I am worthy

Because I matter

Because this body was not put on the planet to be the object of someone’s sadistic form of entertainment

Today I honor you by honoring myself

By loving myself

By fighting for myself and those like me

BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY

By Karmenife Paulino

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