“Growing Up Black” Poem and Speech by Tanya Mariga from #BlackLivesMatter Protest

All credit goes to Tanya Mariga ~ the author and performer of this poem and speaker of these words at the Black Lives Matter Protest in Worcester on the 13th June, 2020.

Growing up black was not having a Disney princess to identify with until 2010.

Growing up black up was picking up dolls and seeing only a white barbie and a white ken.

It was being taught straight hair is prettier than afro and when we try to get straight hair we are told we are fake.

It was being told I was pretty for a black girl, a compliment I just didn’t know how to take.

It was colouring in people in golden time and there were no crayons that were even close to my skin tone.

These were struggles that often made me feel alone.

Growing up black was reading story books and wondering why none of the characters looked like me.

 It was people making jokes that I couldn’t swim and would probably drown at sea.

It was not getting into makeup because my shade didn’t exist until Fenty 2017.

Now aged almost 17, I want to tell you what being black is like now.

It’s being mistaken for other black people because apparently we all look alike.

It’s saying no to people asking for ‘n-word’ passes and being deemed as sensitive.

It’s being passionate but being seen as aggressive and argumentative.

It’s being articulate and calm and being told ‘oh you aren’t like other black girls’

Its people not asking for permission before they start touching my beautiful afro curls.

It’s someone mentioning the word slave and all eyes are on you.

It’s being called a monkey as if I belong in a zoo.

This poem isn’t for sympathy or pity, it’s to just show how racism is most definitely real in this city.


Dear black people, don’t be afraid to use your voice.

Your thoughts, opinions, and ideas are just as important as anybody else’s.

When you speak, speak with boldness and purpose.

Have courage, be confident and always be true to yourself, live your life fearlessly!

Your voice has great power, don’t be afraid to utilize it when needed.

You are not an aggressive person.

You’re just a person with something important to say.

Your voice matters and so do you – Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Now Dear allies, us black people hope you know we appreciate you.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you are doing anything wrong by being our allies.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you should leave it up to black people to deal with.

Your contribution is vital and we have to do this together.


Something I want to talk to you guys about is the act of being actively anti-racist.

I feel it’s beneficial to know the difference between not being racist and being anti-racist.

Anti-racism is the conscious decision to identify and challenge racism on a daily basis.

Anti-racism requires ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life.

A person who practices anti-racism is someone who works to become aware of how racism has affected people of colour and indigenous people.

How racism is systemic and has been ingrained in many aspects of society throughout history. People have to accept and understand that white people knowingly and unknowingly participate in racism. Now the ways to actively oppose racism is to advocate for changes in political, economic and social spheres. If you see or hear racism, call it out. On the spot. Another big first step to eliminating racial discrimination is learning to recognize and understand your own privilege. If everyone plays their part, we can hope for change. It’s never too late to take a stand. If you can’t speak up – donate. If you can’t donate, speak up. If you can’t do either, educate yourself. No excuse to do nothing.


“Seek justice, correct oppression” Isaiah 1:17. This verse has been on my mind a lot recently. We all need to seek justice.

Black lives matter.

Use your voice. Sign petitions, Spread awareness.

I, Tanya Mariga, can’t breathe knowing brothers and sisters are dying because of their skin colour. I can’t breathe and nor could Eric Garner and George Floyd and many others. Stand with us. Black Lives Matter.

One comment

  • Thank you for speaking up and sharing your experiences. There is a lot of justice to be sought and oppression to be ended. Change must be possible and you have helped to show the way.


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