Nicki Minaj, reading poem text into a microphone.

Video of the Day: Nicki Minaj recites Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”

I must have been avoiding Twitter on November 20. Apparently A&E and iHeartMedia hosted Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America, which aired that night. Their website includes some big name performers like Jamie Foxx, Ed Sheeran, John Legend, Big Sean, and Sting. But what I regret the most is that I wasn’t able to live tweet this dope moment where Nicki Minaj recited Maya Angelou’s infamous poem “Still I Rise.”

This moment could not have been more appropriate and strategic. Angelou’s poem is a direct response to the devaluation of Black women’s bodies, agency, and expression. It is a testament to the resilience of Black girls in the face of said adversity. The experiences of Black girls and women are often erased in conversations about anti-Black racism, despite their labor and organizing, an oversight that has spawned movements like #SayHerName. Including a reading of this poem in Shining a Light was a good move.

And who better to perform it than Nicki Minaj? When I discussed the role that Minaj plays in the Holy Trinity of contemporary Black girl artists, I noted: “From her wild costumes, to her alter egos, to her body that is consistently read as excessive, Nicki Minaj has always been willing to go against the grain (especially as a rapper in an industry that has been predefined by a specific masculinity) in order to demonstrate the power of Black Girl brilliance.”  In October a reporter for the New York Times Magazine disrespected and belittled Minaj and her artistry in order to profile the artist for her affluent magazine. When the story broke that Minaj ended the interview early as a result of the interviewers tone and questions, media outlets framed the situation as one with Minaj as the aggressor; proving that Angelou’s take on how Black women are perceived was dead on.

Needless to say I’m thankful that we live in the digital age so that I can relive this moment! Check out the video and read the verses below:

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.”

-Maya Angelou

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

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