Self-Esteem, or Channeling My Inner Nikki G.



A few weeks ago, I received a call from my sister in spirit Daaiyah Salaam.  Daaiyah and I attended college together at Georgia Southern University (the real GSU) and were engaged in a number of social and cultural organizations. At the top of the list was the Black Student Alliance.  Daaiyah served as President of the organization while I was content to deal in the more creative endeavors—like hosting the bi-weekly spoken word sessions we called “Esoteric”.  Dig it.

The nature of sista Daaiyah’s phone call was one of nostalgia. She said she wanted to read something to me.  She began reciting this poem that seemed vaguely familiar.  It wasn’t until about two stanzas in that I realized she was reading my words!!!!  We got a great laugh as we reminisced about Esoteric and our coming into consciousness about our femininity, sexuality, and identities as black women.  The poem was a manifesto of that consciousness.

I recalled the moment that inspired the poem. I was 21, a college graduate, and preparing for my sojourn to attend grad school at UCLA. It was summer. I arrived at a family gathering wearing hip hugging bell-bottom jeans that had come back in style. This was a change from the big, baggy, TLC-inspired wardrobe that had become my signature when I left for college. My adult cousin Joy spotted me first. “Daaaaang, girl. Look at you! Coke Bottle,” she taunted.  

I was well aware of my full hips and up until that point, I had been severely self-conscious of them.  But something changed while I was at GSU.  I had discovered Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Ego-Tripping” and had also discovered that these hips weren’t going any where.  I had also discovered what my mother meant when she said, “Nobody wants a bone but a dog,” to my 14 year old self to assure me that my curvy figure was nothing to be ashamed of. Of course, I wrote about it.

Hearing the words of my twenty-something self reminded me how important it is to have a healthy self-image and to love all of one’s self. Celebrate it, even! I share this poem, inspired by and dedicated to Nikki G. and Joy S. Jones, as a reminder to us all that we can and should create our own aesthetics. 


Coke Bottle (9.8.2001)

Please excuse the conceit

I have a body that’s bangin’ and I want you

To dance to my beat

Never tall and skinny

Enough thigh bone to fill out that mini

Round brown thang

So much sexy I make the sweetest man sang

Mama passed down everything she had

But, she was modest . . . me? I know I’m bad!

All the men stare in awe

Such a lovely sight, even with my many flaws

Among the sistas, I’m an object of envy

Not to worry girls, we all have plenty

Full, silky, soup-coolin’ lips

Jalapeno-pepper, collard green and cornbread hips

Skin dipped in honey so you know I’m delicious

So much booty you can chew it up and blow like bubblicious

Check out my coke bottle figure and Miss America smile

I walk in a room and brothers ask me to have they chile

Slender, shapely legs that will work the hell outta a pair of heels

28 inch waist and a stomach so flat you’d swear I skip meals

Almond joy eyes and licorice lashes

Only a handful of “tatas” but enough to keep my man off those other girls asses

Fly girl supreme

Giving adolescent boys wet dreams

Luscious, succulent brown sugar thighs

Light me up and I guarantee the contact will make you high

All eyes on me like that chic Carmen Jones

Gotta have junk in the trunk because only a dog wants a bone

I’m fine like your grand-daddy’s sweet aged wine

You may choose to disagree — that’s perfectly alright because I still look good to me

Don’t need Cosmo’s, Allure’s or Seventeen’s approval

It’s those societal norms and standards of beauty that need urgent removal

So again I ask that you please forgive my vanity

I’m in love with myself because trying to look like Barbie would drive me to insanity

Copyright 2002

Kameelah L. Martin

My First Published Book!!!!


This week I completed reviewing my page proofs and creating the index.  I have approved of the jacket copy and blush at the strong endorsements provided by scholars in the field.  All that is left is for the manuscript to go to press!! I’m dreaming of the UPS man delivering my advanced copies in December—a great birthday present if you ask me! Conjuring Moments in African American Literature will be released commercially in January. I have completed my first monograph!

The journey to publication has been a learning experience.  I didn’t have many issues with losing an editor or fighting for the cover art—all of which I’ve heard horror stories about.  I even decided to go ahead and create the index myself rather than contract a freelancer to do it on my behalf. If you’ll remember, I was torn about that decision in a previous blog.

As it turns out, if you prepare in advance putting the index together isn’t all that troublesome.  It is a tedious process, but at the advice of my colleague Elizabeth West, I did the work of creating the index terms well in advance. When I received the page proofs is was a simply matter of using the appropriate software to do a search for the terms. 

In all, it took me two full days of work to complete it to my satisfaction. I’m not sure whether I’d be willing to entrust that kind of detail and thoroughness to someone who is less familiar with my work.  After all, I’ve invested some years in developing my scholarship and the index is as much a reflection of that as anything else.  Who knows? Maybe for the next project I’ll be more flexible since I am now initiated into the process. 

I am very happy and excited to see this project come to a close in terms of the writing, revising, and other minutia of publication.  I do hope, however, that the life of Conjuring Moments does not end here.  The next phase is promoting and marketing my work—another area in which I’m a novice.  There are no manuals or guides for how one should go about the work of promoting his or her scholarship. I will have to lean on my great circle of mentors and colleagues to assist with that one.  I am looking forward to the critical response to my scholarship as well as the awkward dance of self-promotion!