‘Black Girl Joy’ is a paradox

A Poem

By Gcotyelwa Jimlongo
© Orianne Lopes

As I sit,
cross-legged
under my trusted green fleece blanket.
A blanket I stole from my mother’s house
like innocently stealing sugar from its bowl,
the sky is gloomy grey, and the air smells like the promise of rain

As I lay, in my most comfortable of spaces,
with the sound of cars shooting past,
all rushing to their final destination,
my mind begins to wander

I wonder about all that is uncertain,
about a tomorrow that has never been given with assurance.
The times I have wasted wandering into the deepest parts of my mind,
with no real tangible work to show for it,
always thinking, but never thinking about anything in particular

I begin to wither away
in my quest
to find a thought to hold onto.
I do not remember the last time I clocked in the hours,
in the mundaneness of the day.
The pressures of productivity,
“You need to produce. You need to produce.”

This singular yet resounding thought,
rings like the bell at the start of a school day,
compelling children to cease their play,
to run towards the classroom
to begin their school day

In a world that tells us that to produce is to be worthy,
I wonder what this means,
for the black girls and black boys
who look upon the sky in wander,
compelling the gods for a shooting star to appear,
to wish for the night never to fall,
for the loop of chatter, laughter, and play.
Dwelling in their joy,
making this the home they choose to build

I wonder what this means for self-worth when,
the black girl in me is no longer magic,
she is battered, bruised, and does not wish to uncross the cocoon of her legs.
When she has no desire to emerge from the safety of her green fleece blanket

Something brings me back.
It is the tick of the clock on the wall
willing me to return to reality,
to put an end to my aimless wandering,

I remember the unofficial African Proverb,
“Kuse mhlabeni la”
such is life,
passion and hearts desires are not on the menu,
the blackness of my skin, the vagina at the edifice of my thighs,
renders me unable to place this order,

I wonder what to tell my mother when I look her in the eye,
Trying to summon the words at the tip of my tongue,
I want to tell her that I am tired,
that I am not the mbokodo her generation so fiercely claimed.
Tears streaming down my face,
her eyes,
worn and tired,
her face tells the tale of tears never shed, and cries stifled,
I remember that she too has had her back broken a million times over

Voices resound clearly in my mind.
It is a symphony of the black women before me
who have been swallowed by the violent gnashes of the system,
they,
as if united in fighting for me in the realm of those who have lived before,
those who continue to order my steps,
pushing back against that which may try its best to break me,
to deliver its lashes tenfold,
and to leave me battered and bruised at the nearest exist

May I always hear their voices,
louder than the ticking clock,
louder than the school bell

“when capitalism tries to kill you,
I hope you laugh instead of sink.
The joy,
looks so much better on you,
than the dust they would not hesitate to cover you with
in the land of the living”.


Gcotyelwa is a Masters Candidate in Politics and International Relations at the university still known as Rhodes. Her research interests lie in African Feminism and citizenship studies. She is a Feminist activist and aspiring writer, who hopes to think through feminism, and what it means to survive and thrive in the quest for black girl joy.

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