Alicia Garza

Source: Courtesy of Malaika Parker / Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza delivered a commencement speech at San Francisco State University, and it’s one that can resonate with so many. 

Read it in its entirety below… 

This is an ode to Black women— because Black women are magic.

This is an ode to the Black women who persisted and the Black women who helped them each and every step of the way.

Were it not for a Black woman from the Midwest who could do anything a man could do and definitely do it better.

Were it not for that same Black woman getting pregnant with me and not being quite sure how she was gonna do it but she did it anyway. Yes, she persisted because that’s what Black women do. Were it not for that Black woman deciding to do it anyway and if it wasn’t for that Black woman teaching me the same…

I would not be standing here today.

Were it not for Black women, there would be no Underground Railroad, no one to campaign against Black bodies swinging from trees like strange fruit, there would be no protest songs like the ones that came from the toes through the womb up through the lungs and out of the brilliant mind and mouth of Nina Simone.

There would be no Black women voting like the 96% of us who did vote and said HELL NO to this administration.

There would be no America were it not for Black women.

This is an ode to Black women— because Black women are magic.

Were it not for Black women, June Jordan never woulda wrote a poem about her rights that I now have tattooed across my heart like a pledge and a promise.

Were it not for Black women, there would be no Underground Railroad, no one to campaign against Black bodies swinging from trees like strange fruit, there would be no protest songs like the ones that came from the toes through the womb up through the lungs and out of the brilliant mind and mouth of Nina Simone.

Were it not for Black women, there would have been no one to fight for me and I would not be here to fight alongside you…

When they said…

She can’t.

She shouldn’t.

She’s too young.

She’s too smart for her own good.

She’s too… disruptive.

Too brash.

She’s too bold.

Too audacious.

Too persistent.

She takes too long.

She….

Should just give it up.

She can’t succeed.

Can’t graduate high school.

Can’t graduate college.

And can’t graduate from graduate school after eight years.

Can’t cry out in the night that Black lives actually do matter.

Can’t ignite the imagination of millions.

Who does she think she is, that Black woman?

If it wasn’t for Black women, were it not for Black women…

This Black woman standing right here in front of you would not have finished her degree while fighting for the rights of domestic workers and fighting for Black lives all over the world including my own. And fighting against corporate greed in Bayview Hunters Point just five minutes from where we sit. Fighting against the poisoning of babies for profit, fighting against kids being shot and killed on t-trains and exposing sewage in public housing. Exposing the world that lives within the richest city in the world. Exposing police kicking down the doors of Black women looking for their Black children to put in a cage instead of taking them to a college or a job or a dream.

Were it not for Black women like Dr. Dorothy Tsuruta and Dr. Dawn Elissa Fisher and Lynette Schwartz and Patrisse Cullors and Ada Bogan Trawick and Myrtle Buckhaulter and June Jordan and Barbara Smith and Lateefah Simon and Harriet Tubman and Malaika Parker and Angela Davis and Ericka Huggins and Linda Burnham and Diane Nash and Ella Baker and Brittney Cooper and Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells and Audre Lorde and Nina Simone and Mya Hall and Penny Proud and Patricia Hill Collins and Jessie Powell and Betty Higgins and Joanne Abernathy and Emma Harris and Espanola Jackson and Islan Nettles and Assata Shakur and Renisha McBride and Janetta Johnson and Kimberle Crenshaw and Janet Mock and Miss Major Griffin Gracy and dream hampton and Michelle Obama and MaeEtta Buckhaulter and Korryn Gaines and so many others whose names I may never know to speak but whose spirits course through my blood… there would be no me no you no us no civilized society of which we speak.

 We, I, you and me— we owe EVERYTHING to Black women.

Yes— all lives, all contributions. But this— this is bigger than all that. THIS is about Black women, cisgender, transgender, no gender, disabled, queer, immigrant Black women who time and time again keep tryna tell y’all and more than that… keep SHOWING Y’ALL.

We are magic.

This is an ode to Black women.

Thank any and every god you want.

For the resilience.

Determination.

Audacity.

Persistence.

Dedication.

Power.

Presence.

Willpower.

And the lifting up of all of us all the time without hesitation or apology or the need to talk about all of us (cuz we been telling y’all that forever now, let’s move forward) we just DO for all of us.

This is an ode to the potential and the possible.

The praxis.

Of Black women.

Congratulations to the class of 2017 and in particular.

Congratulations to the Black women who persisted…

And the Black women who helped them every step of the way.

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