Some thoughts on the importance of celebrating Black Girl Magic in life and travel.
I came across this quote while browsing the internet a few days ago and it got me thinking.
“Black Girl Magic is a term used to illustrate the universal awesomeness of black women. It’s about celebrating anything we deem particularly dope, inspiring, or mind-blowing about ourselves.” —Julee Wilson, Senior Fashion Editor at the Huffington Post
I frequently use the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic on the travel photos I post on social media. I have a particular affection for the term and what it represents. However, I’m acutely aware that such a “bold” statement could raise eyebrows amongst those who don’t understand the context.
For example, some time ago a colleague made a comment about a social media status of mine in which I included the hashtag.
“Why did you put that?” they asked, somewhat tentatively. “Isn’t that kind of… racist?”
(As you could probably guess, my colleague wasn’t black. Nor were they female.)
This was a teachable moment but… honestly? I wasn’t really in a teaching mood. Still, I suppressed an eye roll, took a deep breath, and attempted to explain the concept of exalting black femininity.
I told him how this sort of proclamation was necessary in a society that systemically supports patriarchy and white supremacy–
That social media was was the perfect place for this sort of thing, because we couldn’t leave it up to mainstream media to promote positive and loving images of black women–
And that we had to do it ourselves, within our own communities, because external adulation was rare.
But his eyes glassed over and I could tell that the conversation had gotten too deep and too political for his liking.
In the crystalline waters of Grand Cayman with my besties Joy and June from @adashoftwo. So much history with these girls– we’ve come a long way since our days at the University of Toronto! Perhaps the best part of this cruise has been the ability to spend quality time with friends and family, and to share my love of travel and discovery with them. @carnival #CarnivalPartner #CarefreeBlackGirl
But that conversation, and ones that have followed since, have made me pause and reflect on the status of black womanhood in our so-called global village. Sad to say, but existing at the intersections of black and female, even in 2016, means confronting a society that is rife with negative imagery, prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping against us: if we’re not treated as Jezebels or Mammies, we’re being branded as “sassy” or “angry black women”‘; if we’re not earning less money than our melanin-deficient peers doing the same job, we’re deemed the least desirable of all by potential mates on the dating scene.
They say you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day, but I’m a rebel so…? Actually, the point of this post wasn’t to draw attention to my questionable fashion choices (or is it rather their outdated fashion rules…? ?) Instead, I wanted you to feast your eyes on the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, a colonial-era burial ground found in Old San Juan. The final resting place of many of Puerto Rico’s prominent and well-to-do, the ornate plots and location on the Atlantic Ocean make it one of the most beautiful burial sites in the world.
Black women are told subliminally at every juncture that we’re “less than”. We’re not as “womanly”, not as beautiful, not as intelligent, and not as capable; to add insult to injury, we’re typically socialized (at least in North America) to not only be strong in the face of this sort of disrespect, but to suffer it silently.
The result is an oppression that weighs on you, one that warps the ways in which you see and perceive yourself. At its best, it’s exasperating, at its worst, it makes you fall victim to depression, which very often goes untreated in the black community.
This is *precisely* why we need to celebrate our “Black Girl Magic”, and it’s crazy that celebrating ourselves (especially given the context) is seen as negative or racist (read: anti-white).
To me, Black Girl Magic is an affirmation of our worth and beauty.
It’s a celebration of our strength.
And it’s a positive reminder that we can and we shall do anything we put our minds to, regardless of what society implicitly tells us.
Including travelling the world.
This is why I proudly put the #BlackGirlMagic hashtag on a good number of my photos, along with #BlackGirlsTravelToo and #BlackGirlsRock. With a few keystrokes I can tap into people who look like me, doing things I love or inspiring me to do things I never imagined I could do.
After all, you may recall that in a previous blog post I lamented that a Google Search of the word “traveler” yielded the following:
And if you’ve read my work for a while, you’ll know that I’ve long lamented the lack of media representation and advertising dollars accorded to black travel communities. The silver lining is that social media and the internet as a whole have given travellers of colour a place to encourage and inspire one another, to show that we’re indeed out there discovering the world one city, one monument, and one country at a time. Instagram in particular has been a game-changer in that regard.
So this is why I’m totally here for the movement, and will continue to spread my black girl magic wherever I go, hashtag by hashtag.
Have you ever heard of or employed this term? What do you think of the need for certain communities to start movements promoting self-love?