Girl in a white shirt in front of an ivy and roses-covered wall

#BlackGirlJoy: A Poetry Collection

With the recent tragic death of 19-year-old activist Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau in Tallahassee, FL, as well as other publicized murders of Black women and girls all over the country in recent years, it may seem like the Black female experience is one of endless objectification, persecution and suffering. However, despite this disheartening media storm, Black women want you to know that they lead lives full of joy and happiness as well. On June 11, Twitter user Brooklyn White tweeted the following: “Please contact Black women to write stories that are not centered around trauma!!!! We have many joyful stories to tell!!!!!”

Inspired by this message, I reached out to Janay Delisma, fellow FSU College of Music alumna and a dear friend of mine for the past five years. Janay, who is from Miami, writes poetry and prose in her free time, so I knew that she would be able to tell some beautiful, uplifting stories about her experiences as a young Black woman.

“This collection was written to touch, shine light on and be understood by Black girls,” Janay says about the following poems. “It is made of simple joys: a conversation with my Haitian mother, my mother doing my hair and noticing a friend. Simple as they are, they are only made possible by the tenderness and notable uniqueness of other dark women. Black girl, this is my thank you to you.”

Girl in a white shirt leaning against a wall and looking into the camera Original photo by Annie Rizzolo

“Patron Saint of Saut-d’Eau”

mommy wash me in your voice 

again, tell me i’m my grandfather’s

starkest daydreams. 

when you dreamed of daughters

who were stitched in endlessness,

each one was anointed in 

your silky brooklyn predictions

and so i’ll meet you there, mommy

finish what you started & take it

to the upper west side.

these doctors, they’re all inspired

by me mama. inspired by your

diamond turned opal daydreams

and maybe this is what they

meant to sell you. i glide

in your spirit & they call us 

regal, mommy. 

you’re so regal, mommy

all aries on a voodoo priest’s 

lap, you’re magic mommy

all français on a creole tongue.

Girl posing in streetwear and chunky white Filas Original photo by Janay Delisma

“love letter”

when the wind props up soft magnolia to my nose, 

i know that's you walkin by

with swinging hoops the color the sun

wishes it could be. a sparkling gloss on your lips

with a sparkle the sea could never surpass.

it could only be you. hips teasing

just right in baby phat jeans. inventing the runway

just about two seasons ahead. oh but you girl,

you are always right on time.

with grace enough to hold the sorrows

of all your ancestors building

them a home in your poetry. plastic

lined couches and all. when out of tiptoes

comes a panther’s saunter, they know

nobody but you, girl.

dark-skinned diva with curls spilling

in heaven’s direction, won’t you finish

this drink with me? because, see,

i know you know every secret

that ever snuck off another’s lips.

that knowing so deep that auntie morrison taught.

 & you know why people sneak looks like they do.

& how to grip oiled ropes

at the scalp despite- never mind that.

share this spicy whiskey with me, 

tell me why he’s not worth it with that voice:

(so satin, so pink, so liquid)

like you know exactly how to do. in a voice

hearkening to days of vaseline-

smeared baby faces

(a greased child is a loved one) oh, baby.

i knew it was you walkin’ by.

A selfie of a girl with a Snapchat glitter filter over it Original photo by Janay Delisma


Mommy sits me on the floor between her legs

her skin is honeycomb colored butter

and she smells like the big-girl perfumes

in the avon catalogue and her voice

sounds like eight years of warm

milk and bedtime stories.

Her sentences are mosaics. Shards

of ma douce fille, mon petit ouiseau

mingling with the language of her three

brown-skinned daughters.

She sits, holding the royal blue comb

with thick grease shiny and plastered

under the gold rings she wears.

I sit, and she traverses

through my hair, a small jungle

reclassifying curls coiled up 

in knots all twilight and intimidating 

to the untrained eye.

And the water is bubbling up on the stove

and for only three more to sprout

the water will wait. Mommy sings

the nursery rhymes while she tugs

a little too roughly. It is worth

these blue moon, cotton soft refrains.


Follow Janay on Instagram @juhneyy!

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