Live from TEDWomen

“She Does Not Know Her Beauty”

Via the TED Fellows blog, the gorgeous text that Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo just spoke onstage at TEDWomen.

“My name is Iyeoka Ivie Arabomen Okoawo.
My father named me after my grandmother.
My name means I want to be respected.”

She does not know her beauty
She thinks her brown skin has too many flaws
If she could see her image in the Unogbo River where her mother was born
She would know

But the city holds no clear streams
West side streetlights shade the sunset’s miracles
And the concrete covers the soft memory of the earth’s unborn seed

Black is the color of her press and burned hair
She thinks her curls are too tight and short
If she could feel her natural birth locks blow in Arimogija’s fresh breeze
On the hill her father once stood
She would know

But the girl does not know her own beauty
She thinks her lips are too thick
If she could hear Benin men whisper thoughts across the Atlantic ocean
Praying to touch her heart to win her for just one kiss
She would know…but
She thinks her eyes are dark and troubled
No one told her ebony was the color of the universe’s wings
She thinks her nose is too flat
Her breasts too small
Her legs too long
She never learned how to dance you know…
Never learned how to run naked on the bank of a golden pond
Embracing her existence guided by the light of a tropical dawn

She forgets her name means
Precious child who harbors the beauty of an ocean pearl
She forgets she received her soul from her grandmother
Adopted the spirit of her mother
If she could recall the celebration they had at her birth
she would know…

If I could reach her
She would know
I would make it so there was cause for her to know
That she is more than a motherless child
Victim of an impressionable fate
Helpless before an inconsistent society’s interpretation of what beauty stands for

But I cannot reach her…

If she chooses to be blind
Only she can choose to see

But the city holds no clear streams
West side streetlights shade the sunset’s miracles
And the concrete covers the soft memory of the earth’s unborn seed

Poem written and presented by Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo. This poem will be included in Iyeoka’s new book release of her poetry scheduled to be published alongside her music album “Say Yes.”