Black Girl Magic All Around Us

Zaneta J Smith
Sep 24, 2018 · 3 min read
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Photo by Erin G Wesley

Growing up my mother reinforced the importance of representation with her actions. She kept copies of Essence and Ebony magazines on the coffee table. She positioned a calendar with the history of African Americans on the bulletin board near our computer. Books with African American characters donned the children’s library. While the bookshelves in the living room had works by Maya Angelou, Sister Souljah, etc. In addition, stationary with African American women lined her dresser, Christmas decorations painted with brown marker covered the shelves, and black barbies were a must amongst the collection. We attended the African Art Festival every year in September with my cousin. Attending church was not an option and I was surrounded by Black doctors, lawyers, community organizers, educators, business people, etc. My Aunt made sure I attended the Historically Black College & University Tour during my junior year of High School, while my mom rooted for my application to a Black College. I did not realize it then, but my mother affirmed my Blackness in such a way that has contributed to me being superbly comfortable in my skin today. My dad reinforced all of this of course because he realized mom knows best :)

As September comes to a close, I am still processing and in awe of the number of Black women on the cover of magazines this month.

Rihanna — British Vogue, Lupita Nyong’o — Porter, Zendaya — Marie Claire, Letitia Wright — W

Tracee Ellis Ross — Elle Canada, Naomi Campbell — Essence, The Hollywood Reporter, Nicki Minaj — Arabian Vogue

Issa Rae — Ebony, Tiffany Haddish — Glamour, Beyonce — American Vogue, Aja Naomi King — Shape, Slick Woods — Elle UK

When I was a teenager I thought I could conquer the world. Imagine if I was able to go to an international magazine stand and see a face that looked similar to mine 12 times over. I would have needed a slice of humble pie because I would have driven my mother crazy with “all-that-I-can-be” soliloquies. Thankful to our ancestors who paved the way for this September month and all its #BlackGirlMagic.

Much to my dismay and delight, the history of Black women in America includes but is not limited to:

  • Women living on the continent of Africa representing all socioeconomic levels.
  • Slavery helping spur economic activity especially in the US
  • Women being enslaved, often raped by ship’s crewmen, slave masters, and others (I’d like to think women of African descent conspired to fight back on the ships although there were not many historical accounts of slave retaliation shared in my public school education).
  • Black women working as domestic servants and cooks for white families
  • Black women organizing sororities, churches, schools, businesses, advocacy groups, and private social clubs. They also broke barriers in the entertainment industry.

My maternal great-grandmother was a pediatric nurse at Daniel Freeman hospital in Los Angeles. My paternal grandmother was a maid to a white family. My maternal grandmother was enrolled in a Business College until she became pregnant and elected to stay-at-home with her children. Once the children became older, she was employed as a domestic worker for a white family in Beverly Hills until starting her career with the Los Angeles Unified School Board.

Fast forward to present day CA and we have Black women breaking barriers as mayors, council members, assemblywomen, senators, congresswomen, board members, business leaders, community activists, voters turning elections and more.

What a time to be alive and witness the magic. It’s like our ancestors who trod in the dirt that Maya Angelou spoke of, rose up, sprinkled it around, and we all got a whiff deciding to be agents of change.

Black Girl Magic All Around Us. Black Girl Magic in the Air. Can you feel it?

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