Her poem is about why she felt she couldn't be a poet as well as struggles with body image and ideas of beauty. She didn't think she could write poetry because:
I've spent my life as a Black girlMcCray's poem received considerable attention in October 2013 when de Blasio noted in an interview "that poem really is one of the things that made me fall in love with her.”
a nappy-headed, no-haired,
big-bottomed Black girl
and the poem will surely come out wrong
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, several poets, including Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, and Carolyn Rodgers wrote poems about what poems and poets could and couldn't do. McCray's poem follows in that mode of writing. Like many of her black poet predecessors and contemporaries at the time, she wondered about the possibility of being a poet in the very context of a poem.
One of the important legacies of the Black Arts Movement was the proposition that poets could and should engage in political activism. As leading black arts poet Larry Neal memorably wrote, "the artist and political activist are one."
So it was with Chirlane McCray. Back then, she was a poet. These days, she is, as the mayor calls her, his No. 1. adviser.