Crystal Valentine


Born and raised in the Bronx, Crystal Valentine is a nationally and internationally poet. Crystal has traveled across seas performing on platforms in Paris, Brazil, Botswana, South Africa and elsewhere. She was named Glamour Magazine's 2016 College Woman of the Year, Teen Vogue's Rising Young Black Thought Leader, and was the recipient of the National Conference of College Women Student Leaders Woman’s Distinction Award. A Callaloo Fellow and former New York City Youth Poet Laureate, Crystal’s work has been featured on programming for MSNBC, Blavity, Button Poetry, BET, CNN, The New York Daily News and more. She earned her B.A in Psychology at New York University, where she is returning as a MFA candidate in Poetry. She is a coordinator for the Bronx Council on the Arts and is the current Wednesday Night host at the Nuyorican Poets Café. Source

On Evaluating Black Privilege

Black privilege is the hung elephant swinging in the room,

Is the memory of a slave ship,

Praying for the Alzheimer’s to kick in.


Black privilege is me having already memorized my nephew’s eulogy,

My brother’s eulogy,

My father’s eulogy,

My unconceived child’s eulogy.

Black privilege is me thinking my sister’s name,

Safe from that list.


Black privilege is me pretending like I know Trayvon Martin on a first name basis,

Is me using a dead boy’s name to win a poetry slam,

Is me carrying a mouthful of other people’s skeletons

To use at my own convenience.


Black privilege is the concrete that holds my breath better than my lungs do.


Black privilege is always having to be the strong one,

Is having a crowbar for a spine,

Is fighting even when you have no more blood to give,

Even when your bones carried you,

Even when your mother prayed for you,

Even after they prepared your body for the funeral.


Black privilege is being so unique that not even God will look like you.

Black privilege is still being the first person in line to meet Him.


Black privilege is having to have the same sense of humor as Jesus.

Remember how he smiled on the cross?

The same way Malcolm X laughed at his bullet.


And there I go again,

Asserting my Black privilege,

Using a dead man’s name without his permission.


Black privilege is a myth,

Is a joke,

Is a punchline,

Is the time a teacher asks a little boy

What he wanted to be when he grew up

And he said, “Alive.”

Is the way she laughed when she said,

“There’s no college for that.”


And it’s tirin’, you know?

For everything about my skin to be a metaphor,

For everything Black to be pun intended,

To be death intended.


Black privilege is the applause at the end of this poem,

Is me giving you a dead boy’s body and you giving me a ten,

Is me being okay with that.


And I tried writing a love poem the other day,

But my fingers wouldn’t move.

My skin started to blister like it didn’t trust me anymore,

Like it thought I was trading in this noose for a pearl necklace.


Some days I’m afraid to look into the mirror

For fear that a bullet George Zimmermaned its way into my chest while I was asleep.

The breath in my mouth is weapon enough to scare a courtroom.

I’ll be lucky if I’m alive to make it to the stand.

For some people,

Their trials live longer than they do.


Black privilege is knowing that if I die,

At least Al Sharpton will come to my funeral.

At least Al Sharpton will mason jar my mother’s tears,

Remind us that the only thing we are worthy of is our death. We are judged by the number of people it takes to carry our caskets.


Black privilege is me thinking that’s enough,

Is me thinking this poem is enough.


Black privilege is this.

Is this breath in my mouth right now,

Is me standing right here with a crowd full of witnesses to my heartbeat.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:






Racial Injustice

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times