Crystal Valentine is a black, queer, woman and award-winning slam poet from the Bronx, New York. Crystal is a recent graduate from NYU and is the three-time grand slam champion of NYU’s Poetry Slam Team as well as the two-time winner of the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. Crystal has been featured on MSNBC, Blavity, and CNN. She has recently been named “Glamour Magazine’s 2016 College Woman of the Year”. And with such a busy schedule, she performed her craft on this past Thursday night.
Crystal is very well known within and beyond the slam community and through her advocacy work. However, she is best known by me for her “Black Privilege” slam poem, mostly because it is the first poem I ever saw performed and I am probably half of the almost one million views on youtube.
Her presence is somewhat mythical. I mean completely divine. One word to describe her-SHOOK. As if her words aren’t sharp enough, her delivery is quick, piercing, and strong. She demands to be heard and gives no apologies. Her poems provide a safe space for all black people: queer, trans, women, gender non conforming, poor, loud, and ghetto. She believes that once these voices are celebrated, then real work can be done to improve the systematic oppression of people in the United States.
With us, however, she spoke to us like we were her dear friends, inviting us into her real life. She told us stories about her day and her experiences and asked us about our experiences. It was a conversation of harmony and a plan for progress.
The event was put on by DEEP Impact. DEEP Impact is designed to influence meaningful change throughout the James Madison University campus community through the development of programs and services that heighten awareness, increase knowledge, and celebrate the value of diversity in all forms. D.E.E.P Impact also focuses on promoting inclusion, advocacy, and respect in order to equip students with the cultural capacity to change and shape the world. D.E.E.P Impact is sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Student Services. There are several Cultural Series events held each semester that feature prominent speakers, performers, and films that have made a significant contribution to diversity. These events are tailored towards larger audiences to promote diversity awareness and education.
Crystal Valentine is currently traveling and speaking around the country at colleges like JMU, igniting that same spirit in many other people of color. All while completing her MBA. She invites everyone to follow her work on her website crystalvalentinepoetry.com and to purchase her new book “Not Everything is a Eulogy” at her website.
I am so thankful to have met and learned from Crystal, and invite everyone to listen to her work and let it pour into your life as it has done so many times for me.