13 quotes from Essence Black Women In Hollywood, to Replenish Your #blackgirlmagic

As a young girl growing up in Cameroon, Africa, it was a habit in my culture to seek elders who would make it a point to always speak greatness into your life. In fact, it was imperative as a young girl to spend time with the older women in your family so they would pour love and blessings into your life as much as possible. And often, if things weren’t going to so well in your life, it was advised to travel to the village and kneel at the feet of the women elders. There, they would wash off your pain and struggle by speaking blessings unto you, declaring prophecies of prosperity, and breaking any curses or negativity that might have been sent your way.

Watching tonight’s Essence Black Women in Hollywood, felt exactly like that. Black girl Magic, gathered in one room to speak greatness into one another. To tell each other, I see you. I see greatness in you. I’m rooting for you.

Tonight, four young women came to the village to have magic poured in to them. And it return, they gave us these marvelous quotes to read as many times as necessary until they seep into our skin.

Aja Naomi King gave the first speech of the night, teaching us how to thrive despite the weight of our inner critic.

“That feeling of I don’t belong here, I don’t deserve this. I don’t know why I’m so eager to undermine my own talents. I guess it feels easier to reduce my abilities, than to step into the greatness of my purpose”. Aja Naomi King, on self-doubt.

It can be scary to get everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Because now I’ve got something to lose. The cost is high. I so desperately don’t want to fall short of that, and that fear is overwhelming”. Aja Naomi King, on the fear of joy. The fear you get when you are happy, and now you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. The fear when things feel too good to be true.

“In order to survive in this industry, in this world, I have to stop believing that the root of my talent is from a tree growing in someone else’s yard. As if the fruit it bears doesn’t belong to me”. Aja Naomi King, on impostor syndrome specific to the black experience. When you grow up watching your culture stolen from you, exploited, with complete disregard of you.

“My inner critic is stronger but I know that I am stronger. I can’t get rid of him, he’ll always be there; a voice in my head telling me to not even dare to dream of something more. But that’s exactly what makes me fierce. Because even with his voice, his monstrous size filling up the space underneath my skin, I still choose to try. I do deserve to be here. Today I am standing here […] hoping you will make the choice to live brightly, in spite, NO. TO SPITE your fears.” Aja Naomi King on fighting, living, thriving even with your inner critic.

“We survived because we were loved, and now you must survive because we love you”. Aja, on black resilience, black joy, black love and its healing power.

Issae Rae brought her awkwardness, reminding us that who you are, exactly as you are, is always enough.

You are the original black girl”. Debbie Allen to Issa Rae. Proof that authenticity in all you do, even your awkward, is exactly what the world needs. Step into your truth.

It start with my mother who is the first black woman I’ve ever loved with all my heart, and the first to love me sincerely and dearly. And because of that I have the strength and confidence to do what I do. And I also have her to thank for my awkwardness”. Issa Rae paying homage to black women who paved the way for her, starting with mama.

“That’s what Essence is. It’s black women connecting, celebrating and supporting black women. And I am so grateful for that. I love us so much because we give love and we give life, no matter who tries us”. Issa Rae, on Essence the magazine, and essence of the black sisterhood and loyalty.

Janelle Monae, reminded us that you will always seem off beat, when people can’t hear your own drum. March anyway.

“How can I be of Service”? Janelle Monae, on what decision-making looks like, when you are committed to changing the world.

“We’re not monolithic, we’re not one dimensional, and we have the right to have our stories told”. Janelle Monae, on the black woman’s experience, and its place in pop culture.

“Embrace the things that make you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Choose freedom over fear”. Janelle Monae, speaking to any girl who thinks she needs to change who she is, in order to make it in the world.

Yara Shahidi reminded us that it’s ok to not be quite sure of your role in dismantling oppressive powers, but you must never stand on the sidelines

“I’m fortunate because you all have taught me by example what the role of the artist is: to disrupt, to remold, to create”. Yara Shahidi, thankful for the artists who showed her that art and activism are not mutually exclusive, but inevitably interconnected.

“In the world of James Baldwin, Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they’re good at imitating them. I’m grateful to be imitating you”. Yara Shahidi, to her exemplary parents for showing by example how to become the amazing woman she is.

“You see me. And you have heard me. And what I said mattered”. Oprah. Though this is quoted from a past speech, this beautifully encapsulated what this event is, and what we all wish at the most basic level. To be seen, to be heard, to matter.

It was beautiful, and affirming to watch this wide array of phenomenal women. Brilliance gathered in one room, to show us what possibility looks like, to let us know that who we are, whatever that looks like, has room in this world. From Ivy league educated brilliance Aja. To other-worldly, uniform-wearing, paying-homage to working-class folks renaissance woman Janelle. To awkward “original black girl” Issa Rae. To confused, still finding her place, yet still outspoken Yara. The Essence Black Women in Hollywood is proof that blackness is not one dimensional. There are so many layers to us, so much genius, so much badassness. The world does everything it can to make us forget. And sometimes we do. But this event from Essence magazine is the village of elder women, here to remind us: There is greatness in you, lest you forget.

Image description: four women standing, laughing with each other. From left to Right. Issa Rae in a black dress, tilting her head to the side. Aja Naomi in a white dress, with her left hand on her shoulder. Yara, holding her award, wearing a sheer black top with a black pencil skirt. Janelle Monae, facing to the left, wearing a white suit with yellow and black accents.

Note: All pictures from Essence.com