Resistance, Celebration and Love
Perhaps you have seen a mobilization on social media called #BlackGirlMagic. This phenomenon was originally created by CaShawn Thompson to address and mitigate the lack of self-love she experienced within the black community, especially with black women. The movement has since expanded beyond a hashtag—not that it was simply this ever—to curate spaces where black women can unapologetically be themselves, celebrate their beauty and successes, and connect with each other. This concept of #BlackGirlMagic is so special because it also allows space to facilitate the recovery process in addressing trauma that black women have faced from the lived experiences of being both women and women of colour in a white, patriarchal and capitalist society; a society that has had no problem pushing these women into marginalized spaces.
We set out to write this article to highlight some of the #BlackGirlMagic that happens in our extended community. As two women who do not identify with the lived experiences of being a woman of colour, we aim to balance the line of highlighting this movement and appreciating it so fully, while understanding that this is not a movement for us. As two self-identifying feminists, our intent in writing this article is that of solidarity. We recognize that this movement is so crucial to the overall wellbeing of women; when some of us our oppressed and under-appreciated, none of us are truly free.
Black women have and continue to face an unprecedented amount of negative stereotyping, hypersexualization, colourism, misogynoir, unequal pay and blatant racism. Historically, black women’s work has been devalued compared to their white counterparts; especially in the context of domestic work and motherhood. As a result, white feminism has structured empowerment discourse on the oppression of WOC.
Black women also have the double-burden of intersecting, marginalized lived experiences. A perpetuated myth is that of the black man being seen as a risk to society. WOC then face the precarious double-burden where they must align themselves with their male counter-parts out of racial or ethnic solidarity and additionally, often face sexist oppression within their own communities.
#BlackGirlMagic insists on the elimination of choosing between being black versus being a women. Instead, it tackles the dangers of a culture that recognizes few achievements by black women and takes a collective stance, pressing for greater appreciation and representation beyond the token exceptions.
Within our local communities we are lucky enough to have an abundance of talented individuals that are mobilizing to bring forward the voices of racialized and marginalized groups, including those in the LGBTQ2+ community, and are promoting the magic of black women in Nova Scotia and beyond. Emma Paulson and Kate McDonald are co-creators of the Magic Project, both women are apart of the LGBTQ2+ community and Kate is a part of the black community. The Magic Project works on creative displays and initiatives to bring forth unheard voices particularly those of queer and black groups. The project is working to challenge stereotypes and promote the visibility and agency of these communities. The Magic Project, which began in early 2017, was partially created in response to the election of Donald Trump in the United States as many members of these communities were personally effected by the xenophobic rhetoric of the new president and feared for the safety and well-being of their loved ones in the States. The group mobilized when they recognized that a “daunting and dark shadow” was cast over their communities and wanted to create a space to centralize the voices of queer and black individuals and celebrate what they bring to communities in Nova Scotia. The project was kicked off with a “Black Girls are Magic” photo shoot which took place in an empty lot on Gottingten Street, in Halifax and included 25 women. The project then organized a similar shoot to promote the magic of black men, followed by a community discussion about the experiences of black men within our local communities and throughout the country. The group is wishing to inspire young women of colour and wishes to extend their activism to all corners of the country, to create spaces for marginalized groups to promote their own knowledge, talents, authenticity and Magic.
Another initiative to highlight is the “Moving Forward Looking B(l)ack” Arts panel that took place in October at the Halifax Memorial Library on Gottingen Street, which was presented by Visual Arts Nova Scotia in partnership with Nocturne: Art at Night, panel featuring black/afro-indigenous/African Nova Scotian women. The panel included Pamela Edmonds, Lucie Chan, Jade Peek and Bria Miller who discussed their experiences and practices as women of colour and visual artists in Nova Scotia. The discussion focused on resource availability and access to public knowledge about contributions in the visual arts community, which is limited in Nova Scotia and how these limitations work to bar talented black artists and curators in the province from showcasing their work. The panel worked to acknowledge and celebrate the creations of black women in the visual arts.
There is so much more to be said on this phenomenon. We encourage all readers to look into #BlackGirlMagic regardless of your racial identity. Shine theory was coined by journalist Ann Friedman who affirmed that when you surround yourself with other powerful, like-minded people, you all just shine brighter. This echo’s our previous sentiments on solidarity within the intersectional feminist movement. Through an understanding and engagement in this movement—whatever this looks like for you—we celebrate the black woman’s spirit, one that has refused to be broken down by the systematic oppression of our society. Let’s use this space for resilience, resistance and above all else, love.