The Black Girl Duet

I have two favorite pieces in Élan’s Spring book.

My first favorite is “The Barbie” by Myka Davis-Westbrook. Myka recalls their interactions with different barbie dolls as a child. I love the way Myka described the barbie dolls skin tone, “had skin like a Peach” vs. “brown like dirt.” It captured my childhood, choosing to play with the peach colored dolls with perfect long hair vs. playing with the dirt colored dolls with “hair sticking every which way.” This poem is so relatable to me as a little colored girl who grew up playing with dolls. I know exactly how the character in the poem felt in the moment. As a child you chose to play with the pretty dolls’ vs. the rougher looking dolls, you don’t really consider the race of the dolls. That’s not important until later in life once you experience life and learn. I think both points come across in the final moments of the poem, “My miniature hand thumbed a dent into the plastic toy’s face until it looked less human dunking it head first in my sandbox. I play house with the other two.” I liked the imagery and power in the line. It might be a stretch, but I think it’s also symbolic for how black girls are viewed now in society. “The Barbie” is made up of four powerful stanzas filled with imagery. The title alone stood out to me and made me want to read the poem.

My second favorite piece is “Ghetto Fabulous” by Miracle Singleton. I’ve seen her preform this piece numerous times and it never gets old. I like the positive images of the African American girl in this poem. I like how she turns the negative around, “they call my ghetto fabulous with my golden hoops dangling from my chocolate ears that hear “she ghetto” as that statement exits their sore lips,” and sounds so careless. Confidence radiates throughout this piece. After reading “Ghetto Fabulous” I felt confident, empowered, proud to be an African American female. I like image of this carefree, confident, chocolate girl walking around just being her while the rest of the world watches her. I like the way the piece reads like a spoken word piece.

“Ghetto Fabulous” and “The Barbie” are the black girl duet in the Spring book. They approach race and show the story of the black community differently, while adding some variety and spice to the Spring Edition.

La’Mirakle Price, Junior Managing Editor

“Mixed Emotion Elegy” Demands Understanding, Engagement

The culture we live in is one with constant media coverage and constant headlines—so constant that one can easily become desensitized to it. In a world fraught on the daily, it can often be difficult to see oneself in the endless news cycle, especially if it wouldn’t directly affect the one watching. Barker Thompson’s “Mixed-Emotion Elegy for Closeted Me” is a complicated work that entices the reader to untangle it, forcing the reader to engage with a reality they may have shunned or ignored.

And what reality does Thompson explore? What terrible place does the speaker of the poem find themselves in? The poem takes place largely in an ecosystem of ignorance and immaturity, an environment known as middle school—what other setting crawls with raw hormones, petty politics, and juvenile angst? Middle school is never one’s ideal circumstance, so from the very first line of the poem, I felt magnetized to the speaker and their plight. How couldn’t I? When I was in that awkward stage of life, nothing felt right, especially as a closeted kid. Such a secret is heavy to a child, when all one understands is the schism it could rupture between oneself and one’s friends. In middle school, one’s identity is still in formation, and thus, as Thompson describes, everyone is self-conscious and afraid.

It is not until halfway through the poem that the true stakes are revealed, invoking the deaths of LGBTQ+ peoples often ignored by media, or else buried under other headlines. This is where Thompson’s subtlety reaches its full effect. There’s a term (used often to deride or diminish the poem) for a work that expresses outrage at the social injustices that pervade society: a “soap box.” But Thompson’s poem is special, as it doesn’t just express outrage, though the speaker certainly deserves to feel angry. The poem is thoughtful and reflective, a reminder of the humanity at stake when we shut ourselves off to what’s happening on the other side of the screen. The elegy transforms the personal into the universal, with a topic that could easily be cloaked in vague expression and unhindered fury. I saw a mirror of my own struggles coming to terms with my identity, that fear and loneliness and self-consciousness. Thompson’s words allowed those old wounds to heal a little more, and for that reason, this poem has a place in my heart.

Thompson’s poem, “Mixed-Emotion Elegy for Closeted Me,” is just one representation of authentic craft present in Élan’s Spring Edition.

Noland Blain, Senior Managing Editor