Black Girl Magic
If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.-The Combahee River Collective Statement, 1977
Black feminists have said for decades, if you center Black women and girls in the fight for liberation, then everyone else will be liberated. If Black women and girls are free, everyone is free.
While Black women and girls are keenly aware of being key to liberation for all, all too often, we are silenced, ignored, and left out of liberation movements. Often times, racial justice movements equate “black” with black men, while the feminist movement equates “woman” with white women; and the end result is that Black women and girls are invisibilized and ignored. But not anymore–the tide is changing and Black women and girls are commanding the stage to be seen and heard. The Black Girl Movement Conference created a space for Black girls to be in their rightful place–the center.
“Black Girl Movement: A National Conference” was a three-day gathering to focus on Black girls in the United States. The conference was hosted by an intergenerational and cross-sector committee featuring two Move to End Violence Movement Makers–Joanne Smith of Girls for Gender Equity and Scheherazade Tillet of A Long Walk Home. The conference brought together artists, activists, educators, policymakers, and black girls leaders themselves, for the first national conference on Black girls. The conference not only addressed the disadvantages that Black girls in the United States face, it also celebrated their achievements, creativity, gifts, contributions, and leadership. From the creativity on display at the kick-off event, Picturing Black Girlhood Exibition, curated by Scheherazade Tillet, to the dynamic panels moderated by Joanne Smith, the Black Girl Movement Conference was both a manifestation of our Black foremothers and ancestors and a declaration that Black girls will not be left behind during this unprecedented moment where the lives of Black people are being centered within our racial justice movements of the 21st Century. (Black Girl’s Movement Conference)
During the opening panel on The Past, Present, and Future State of Black Girls, author Monique Morris, reflected on the central role that Black girls and women have held in the history of the freedom struggle:
Black girls in our world, our work, and in my life are sacred and loved… We need to see their sacred manifestations of divine feminine energy. If we really were to engage in understanding that their presence is powerful and the words they speak and the challenges they make are really at the center of every major social justice movement in history in this country, then we would understand that they’re a critical part of not only maintaining a commitment to democracy, but central in the articulation of what that democracy looks like. Black women and girls have articulated–Black girls have been at the center of these educational movements (Brown vs. Board of Education). Really the backbone of our work–the organizing, writing, interrogation, systems of accountability–these were articulated by Black girls and women. We need to teach that to our daughters and teach it in our schools, so that our girls see themselves as a critical part–not just in supporting men and boys in the articulation of what freedom looks like–but to understand that their presence, their being, and their words and thoughts have also shaped fundamentally what freedom looks like. (Watch the video of this panel.)
This concept of centering the voices and lived experiences of those most impacted by violence is central to Move to End Violence’s vision of centering the last girl. Creating a world in which every last girl is free from violence and able to live up to her full potential requires a deep commitment in the lives of Black Girls and Black Girl Movement conference does just that: creating space for an inclusive racial and gender justice movement for Black girls. We are thrilled that the NoVo Foundation was a key support for this inaugural conference, uplifting the leadership of Black women who have worked and lived at the intersection of gender and race.
The three days were rich with prolific storytelling, nuanced and complex academic research, and best practices in direct services, movement-building, and philanthropy–too much to capture in a blog. I encourage you to take some time, pour a glass of lemonade, and log on to the live stream to experience this black girl magic.
Additional reading and reflections on this powerful conference:
Essence Magazine First Black Girls Movement Conference Is Coming to New York City
National Women’s Law Center Five Reasons I’m Going to the Black Girl Movement Conference
Broadly, a channel of Vice The Lives of Black Girls, In Photos
Soul Reflectionz Scheherazade Tillet is Capturing Black Girls’ Essence in Pictures