An Homage to Jamaica Kincaid 

This poem won a Gold Key in the 2023 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Wake up a half an hour earlier to do your hair for school; wrap your braids in a scarf; don’t let  them see the frizz; is it true that your hair is fake?; How do you wash your braids?; don’t let the shoelace string that holds your natural hair to be seen; this is how you detangle your hair — so it doesn’t look nappy; don’t let leave-in-conditioner be seen; add gel to your hair so it doesn’t look nappy; this is how you put the oil in your hair; Your hair looks better in braids; try not to be yourself; create a new personality for school; fit in to their tiny mold of your people; cook for everyone, not just yourself — that’s selfish;This is how you swim because you will not be a walking stereotype; don’t be a selfish stingy black girl; you will not be perceived as angry when you speak; don’t be the ghetto black girl; don’t be the disappointment; don’t let them touch your hair; don’t wear long acrylics; don’t wear hoops; big hoops make you look ghetto; don’t talk loud, don’t talk black; This is how you need to dress; This is how you wash your hair; You need to braid your hair every month; You need to flat iron your hair every two weeks; You shouldn’t be afraid of these white people; they’ve done nothing to you, yet; but don’t date outside of your race; This is what sports you need to be good at; You need to play basketball it is your genes; it’s a waste if you don’t; this is how you do your hair for school; this is how you do your hair for church; you will not lick your fingers after a meal because it is not finger licking good; Don’t move when someone is doing your hair — you are not tender headed; This is how you ride a bike because you will not be a walking stereotype; This is how you put lotion on because you won’t be ashy; You need to be the strongest in the room — so swallow your pride; always make people around you laugh; even if you are empty inside; it is the only way they’ll ever like you; this is the music you need to listen to; you need to have the best new jordans; the best insight on fashion; Don’t shine so bright, that they see your shiny black excellence;This is how you tie your hair at night; You will not listen to ghetto black female artists;This is how you need to act towards your white teachers; be respectful; even if they disrespect you and your people; You will not be their scapegoat black friend; You will not be emotional; This is how you make our cultural dish; If you don’t learn it you’re a disappointment to the family; you are the girl you need to know this; you will not be their prized black pony; you will speak your intelligence with your chest; you will not bow down to the stereotype the white man created; always remember this won’t be the place you reside in forever; You mean to say after all that, you are still going to be the stereotypical black girl society forces you to be?