Kimberlé Crenshaw's Poem 'Respect,' Written and Delivered at V-Day at the Apollo

"Respect"

Delivered at V-Day at the Apollo
by Kimberlé Crenshaw

Black vaginas
the hardest working vaginas in America,
and still they get no respect.
No vagina has done so much for this country
and received so little. Really.
Black vaginas built this country.
It all started right here,
between blueberry black, chocolate cream, honey brown,
praline pecan
french vanilla
legs.
It wasn’t the Declaration of Independence,
the Constitution,
or the Stars and Stripes that gave birth to America.
It was the Black vagina that laid the golden egg,
or rather, the chattel slave.
That’s right–during America’s formative years, the most valuable property
it produced,
the property that the entire economy was based on,
the property that was mortgaged to build America
was property in slaves.
12 billion dollars worth.
One can’t begin to fathom it in today’s dollars. And where did it come
from? Whose vaginas passed this 12 billion dollars?
Whose vaginas were capitalized, colonized, and amortized all to give birth
to America?
Who’s vaginas have been appropriated, syndicated, deprecated, but never,
ever
vindicated in the process of building this country?
The Black vagina, the only vagina that was less valuable when it was
protected, loved, and respected
than when is was open, taken, and occupied at will.
And the law made it that way–black women couldn’t be raped as a matter of
law during those old days.
The Law Said
that Rape was something that happened to white vaginas
not to black ones.

But those were the old days, we can rest assured.
We finally got that Respect that Aretha’s been talking about all these
years.
Or did we?
Has the black vagina received the respect she deserves even today?

Is it respected when those who enter our vaginas against our will are least
likely to be arrested, least likely to be prosecuted, least likely to be
convicted, and when, by some miracle, they are convicted, they will
receive only 1/5 the sentence of those who rape white vaginas?

Is it respected when no one seems to know or care about what happens to our
vaginas within our communities, right here in Harlem?

Is it respected when everyone knows about the Central Park Jogger, but no
one knows about the 8 other women of color raped in New York that very
week, one who was gang raped, thrown down an elevator shaft and left for
dead?

Is the Black vagina respected when our own community readily embraces those
accused of rape, and chastises women for “not having the good sense God
gave her” or “having no business being up there with that man at 2:00 in
the morning” or “being foolish not to know what the brother’s true
intentions were?”

Is it respected when politicians trip over themselves trying to be “tough
on Black vaginas” by embracing punitive policies to sew up and shut down
these vaginas now that our labor isn’t needed anymore?

After four hundred years is THIS the RESPECT we’ve been waiting for?
I don’t think so…

So here’s an idea. The next time we hear ReRe belting out
R>E>S>P>E>C>T,
let’s reach for it, own it, proclaim it as our national anthem for Black
vaginas,
for all vaginas
Because we know that respect goes to those
who demand it, expect it, and refuse to live without it
So from Harlem to Watts
From Memphis to Detroit
From Nairobi to Beijing
From Kingston to Jerusalem
Let our voice, our Demand, our Command be heard:
RESPECT This Vagina!!!

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3 Responses to “Kimberlé Crenshaw's Poem 'Respect,' Written and Delivered at V-Day at the Apollo”


  1. 1 tommy September 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    I love what Kimberle has to say here.

  2. 2 James Willging July 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Hey, with the abundance of crappy blogs around it’s great to see that there are still some filled with great information! Is there any way I can be emailed when you make a new post? thank you!


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