Six years ago, CaShawn Thompson, gifted us with a viral hashtag that would become a mantra for Black women and girls everywhere: #BlackGirlsAreMagic. Thompson began using it for empowerment and to highlight our accomplishments. It has since been seen on t-shirts and ads, debated and explained in articles, and is the topic of academic papers and panel presentations.
In a 2018 interview with Feminista Jones, Thompson says it was her upbringing in a pro-Black family that affirmed her as pretty, magical and valued from birth. In a world that dismisses, devalues and denigrates Black girls, it’s wonderful to hear Thompson was surrounded by a community that reinforced her self-esteem. I wish this for all Black girls everywhere. We deserve to be told that we are magical, special and worthy of amazing things.
This makes me think about my younger self and what I would tell her if I could go back in time. As an only child, I spent a lot of my formative years in predominantly white environments where I felt anything but magical. This is the advice I’d give to my young self:
Aim high and don’t get discouraged, no matter what other people think.
I had big dreams as a kid—everything from becoming a gymnast to wanting to work as a writer and journalist to traveling the world as an archeologist (I loved the Indiana Jones movies!). But I was often discouraged from them, sometimes by family members and teachers, sometimes because I never saw anyone who looked like me doing those things and didn’t think they were possible for me. Looking back, I should have chased those dreams with vigor. I’ve learned that people are often negative when they don’t understand something, feel intimidated or don’t have the imagination to see what could be. I would tell my younger self:
“Other people’s opinions about you aren’t important and they won’t matter when you’re older. Anything is possible. With some hard work and opportunity, you can be the first Olympic medal-winning gymnast who also writes about archeology!”
You are smart, capable and belong, always.
How many of us as Black women have questioned our abilities: at school, work or somewhere else? I know I have! I recall many group projects in school, or meetings at work, where I felt not good enough or that I didn’t belong. These situations always made me feel anxious. I questioned why I was there and if I was smart enough, and felt a need to prove myself worthy to others. I would tell my younger self:
“You are smart and good enough, just as you are. Also, here is a little secret. Half of the people you will meet aren’t nearly as smart, talented or impressive as they appear. Many of them are just faking it!”
Make friends with other Black women.
I’ve always prided myself on getting along with everyone and having a lot of diverse friends. Because I was often in predominantly white spaces, there were many years that my closest friends were not Black women. Over time, I’ve learned how much Black women support and lift one another up. Those are the relationships that have brought me infinite joy and taught me the most about myself. I’ve gotten job opportunities, been comforted in times of sickness, sadness and loss, laughed until my sides hurt and been recognized for awards because of my friendships with Black women. As a bonus, my hair and style are usually on point, because my sister-friends always make sure I look good! I would tell my younger self:
“Always have a squad of Black women to rely on.”
Don’t be afraid to dance and embrace joy, no matter where you are.
I was raised in a family where appearance and respectability mattered, a lot. As a result, I was always worried about what people thought about me. I didn’t want to be too loud, or too flashy or draw too much attention to myself. I remember high school dances and college parties where I sat off to the side or danced in my chair because I didn’t want to be seen. While others had fun, I worried about making a fool of myself. I missed out on so many opportunities for joy. Now I laugh as hard and loud as I can when the moment calls for it, I dance in stores when I hear a song I love and try my best to see the joy in small things. I would tell my younger self:
“Dancing is good for the body, heart and soul and joy is necessary to live, especially in a world that doesn’t want Black women and girls to thrive.”
To see an amazing example of a Black girl dancing and embracing joy, click here.
Black girls are indeed magic, and we should tell this to the Black girls in our lives and to our younger selves over and over again.
What advice would you give to your younger self? I’d love to hear from you!