Black Girl Magic

“Only the black woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me” ~Anna Julia Cooper

The lived experience of a Black-Woman is one rooted in the existence of a unique intersection of race, gender, sexuality and class (Crenshaw 1993). The Black-Woman is often objectified and her representation controlled in an attempt to delegitimize her oppression rooted in the hetero-patriarchical, capitalist, white supremacist structure. This structure seeks to justify the experience materialized through racism, sexism, poverty and degradation. Being an object eliminates the right to define her own reality, establish her own identity, and name her history; all rights only afforded to a subject. This objectification gives way to silencing and shaming through portrayal, politics and policing. The portrayal of the Black-Woman embodies the politics and policing of Black, female sexuality. She is portrayed on a spectrum ranging from asexuality to hypersexuality through the use of typified characters, and over generalized stereotypes. These stereotypes, found in Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought (2009) range from Mammy to jezebel and hoochie. Using Collins’ work as a reference I explored the ways in which this very same typology, rooted in age-old traditions of slavery, are the foundation for the same images of Black-Women produced and consumed by mass media today making them the same images we fight to disprove in our daily lives, in academic spaces, and even among those who are first in line to call themselves a feminist.

As an artist and as a Black-Womyn, my first goal was to push back against these stereotypes, and to celebrate those intersections through my own brand of feminism. I wanted to produce a piece of visual work that embodied the magic of Black-Womyn. As Florio points out in her article 7 Things Feminists of Color Want White Feminists to Know, “The plight of a middle-class, straight, white, American woman is not the same as that of an uneducated, gay, American woman of color”. The brutal truth of the matter is Black-Womyn have been ignored, pathologized and exploited throughout American history, and that includes our representation in academic works. “History has constructed our sexuality and our femininity as deviating from those qualities with which white women, as the prize objects of the western world, have been endowed”( Carby,1982). The way I knew to change that history, to share our story, and to celebrate our magic was to show the beauty, the talent, the education,and the grace of many of the magical Black-Womyn that I know. This visual project is about giving space to Black-Womyn to be beautiful, to be sensual, and to be amazing. In a world where we are ignored it was of the utmost importance to me to be able to provide room for our feminism to be valid, and for our thoughts to be heard even if they’re only heard by each other. My goal was to feature womyn of different skin tones, hair type, body shape, education level, age, and socioeconomic status. This project defies stereotypes and displays that Black womyn are indeed beautiful, professional, playful, educated, joyful, talented, sexy, and a number of other amazing things.

Some of the Black-Womyn who participated in the visual project decided to share quotes on what it means to them to be a Black-Womyn. Here they are:

“As a black woman I have no choice but to use my adversity as my greatest advantage. That’s the key to my magic. ~Janise Tucker

“Being a black womyn…is to be unstoppable. Is knowing that the moment you walk in a room you are either at a disadvantage of being black or being a womyn. Yet you still strut into the room like the BOSS” ~Priscilla Anning

“Black women are like water. Powerful. We are the source of life, but don’t cross us because water can also do damage” ~Alexcia Kilgore

“Black womyn symbolize strength and greatness. We have to be strong. For ourselves, our men, and our children. And through all that we still find time to do everything everyone said we couldn’t do. We are among the most educated and one of the highest number of rising entrepreneurs. Ain’t shit handed to us, we just take it. To them, we are nothing. To me, we are everything” ~Liyah Sumner

“To be Black and a woman is to blossom unwatered” ~Mikeita King

“Being a Black Woman to me is being blessed by God to be the beauty, grace,intelligence, strength and endurance personified that the world needs, while fighting that same world to love you. It is an uphill battle that we are built for as no one could love the world more than the original woman…and it is a battle that I fight proudly.” ~Sharonda Hunter-Simmons

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” (Maya Angelou) ~Jacqueline Jolly

“Being a black woman means carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and still being able to dance” ~Nikki Trei

“To be a Black womyn is to be fearless. Understanding that we have to work twice as hard to get half the credit has never been debilitating, only the foundation of our strength. To be a Black womyn is to be beautiful. Embracing our histpry and culture and understanding that is runs through our very being. To be a Black womyn is to be light, leading our people by example. To be a Black womyn is to rise. The Black womyn is feminism, love, passion and intelligence.” ~Jade L. Hendricks

“Black. Woman. Plus Sized. Don’t tell me there’s nothing I can’t do, because I’ll do it all and then some” ~Breanna R. Taylor

“The first lens used to explore my black womyn-ness was through the lens I was born into: an Ethiopian-immigrant, American-born, refugee, ancient African, third-world one but — it is not the only one. To be a black womyn is deciding whether I am Ethiopian or African, Black, African-American, or a womyn first and knowing that either descriptor can hurt or benefit me depending on environment, context, and one’s meaning or use of such terms. It is knowing that you feel like a stranger and at times, an enemy, because you are vying for all of these groups to wholly accept you 24/7…to be loyal to all. To be this black womyn is to be veiled in an unstable and disturbed blanket of anxiety because you are intimately aware that to Black America, your foreign blackness is always up for debate upon its authenticity, that you for some reason have to choose between immigration/refugee crisis and BlackLivesMatter. It is knowing that womyn like you have led a plethora of these historical, social justice movements but often times get no credit while also knowing that no one chooses to do the same for you. To be a Black womyn is knowing that you have a greater capacity for pain simply because the color of your skin receives literal and figurative bullets from those outside AND inside your “race” or ethnic group, your community, your countries, FOR your children and Black men, and for humanity WHILE it slowly chips away your seven dimensions of wellness…at you. It is being told to love and hate yourself at the same damn time in various quotidian, subtle, AND direct ways. That you aren’t good enough, that you are just entertainment, just a nurturer, NOT a boss, always angry. But we are Enough. All Black womyn are Resilient. Change-makers and Game-changers. Alive. We are Life. Often Silenced YET Vociferous. Perceptive. Determined. Beautiful. Resourceful. Unapologetic. Capable. A sub-minority of a minority. Accomplished. Creation. Hard-working. Superwomyn. Wise. A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH.” ~Rebecca Zellelew

“To me being a black womyn means that the widely-envied deepness of my skin breathes soul into the world through the immergence of my culture and my people. My fight and the love for my people is like a fire that cannot be extinguished despite how little love and appreciation I often times get in return. We are the givers of life and have been since the beginning of creation. Our resilience is witnessed through our existence despite our unimaginable struggle which we endure. Our beautiful skin and unruly hair evokes fear in those who cannot understand our remarkable design, and our features still stand strong today after years of trying to erase us. The chains we are freeing ourselves from after they continue to try to break us because they forget that the Black womyn is one that refuses to be broken.” ~Nailah Johnson

“”To me, being a black woman is to be resilient. It’s understanding that since the beginning of time you possess a power unlike any other that breaks down barriers for the good of not only yourself but those that will follow you for generations to come.” ~Teran Powell