Crystal Irby’s poem in response to Ecclesiastes 3:3 examines the painful road to hope and healing.
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
Freedom is not only about access to opportunity, power, and capital. Freedom is also about being dedicated to healing by letting go of internalized oppression.
The truth is we live in a country that implements legislation dedicated to the destruction of Black folks. We live in a country founded through war and built on violence perpetuated against enslaved and indigenous peoples. The goal of white supremacy is to convince everyone including Black people, marginalized folk and indigenous people, our pain isn’t real, to make us comfortable witnessing our brutality and seeing our own blood. Therefore white supremacy will never give us what we need to heal because it’s built on the belief we are not human, that our purpose is to endure and so…
Our healing is up to us and it is not a burden or destination but a commitment to a journey towards wholeness. This poem was born out of the belief that the Promised Land, the world we imagine, is available right now. All we have to do is look around and see the foundation being laid. This poem is born out of the belief that the struggle is real but not everlasting. This poem is born out of the belief that no one is coming to save us. God is here now. This poem is born out of the belief that battle and the balm exist simultaneously because the truth is if healing is not a part of our freedom the foundation we build on will collapse and we will eat each other alive because we know not what else to do.
Crystal Tennille Irby identifies as a Black Creative: an artist who creates work across multiple artist disciplines that centers on the Black experience. She is a spoken word poetry grand slam champion, published writer, actress and current cohost of Dem Black Mamas, a podcast that delves into the unique experience of Black mothers. Her recent theatre credits include, The Mrs. & the Mistress and Untitled Reconstruction Play.
Crystal was a member of the international poetry collective, Colors of the Diaspora, which was comprised of female artists from the U.S. and South Africa. She traveled to South Africa and performed in the premiere of the original multi-lingual theater piece, Colors of the Diaspora, at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. In addition to international travel, Crystal has toured throughout the country performing her poetry at various colleges and universities, performed on world famous stages such as The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. She had shared the stage with transformational individuals such as Iyanla Vanzant, star of OWN TV’s Iyanla Fix My Life. Crystal has been the curator for countless poetry shows including the Pan African Film Festival Spoken Word Festival, which takes place in Los Angeles, CA each year.
Crystal is a contributing writer for For Harriet. Her work has also been published in anthologies, including Hub For the Holidays (2013) and HIS RIB: Poems, Stories and Essays by HER (2007). Beyond poetry and spoken word, Crystal is dedicated to pushing the community forward and amplifying Black voices. While living in Los Angeles, she worked as the Programs Manager for the Cross Cultural Centers at California State University, Los Angeles. She is the creator and director of Writers Well Youth Fellowship Retreat, which is a retreat for Black girls ages 14-19 focused on writing and performance. Crystal is also a facilitator for Speaking Down Barriers whose mission is to transform life together across differences by facilitating community dialogue, training, performances and consultation. She is a member of the board of directors of Hub City Writers Project, a non-profit press, which publishes well-crafted, high-quality works by new and established authors, with an emphasis on the Southern experience. She is an active member of West Main Artist Coop, where she teaches acting workshops once a week. Crystal obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Media Production from Florida State University.