Why I Have To Believe In #BlackGirlMagic

#BlackGirlMagic NYE 2015
#BlackGirlMagic
NYE 2015, photo credit: Kevin

I don’t typically drink appletinis. But, it’s Wednesday night and the martinis at Friday’s on Pennsylvania Avenue are $3 dollars, so I’m on my second appletini. The DJ’s set has the worst case of a musical identity crisis I’ve ever heard. He goes from Mary J. Blige to Mystikal, but then he lands on Meek’s Dreams and Nightmares. I’m a sucker for long intros that lead up to a sick beat. Aren’t we all? Something about delayed gratification. So, one minute and 37 seconds in, the beat shifts and my hands start to push the air. My face is all scrunched up as I look over at my two friends and they’re mouthing the lyrics. The woman next to me, whose name I don’t know and never will, is dancing too. Her shoulders are hitting mine as we laugh and keep rapping with our scrunched up faces. It is Wednesday night. At Friday’s. On Pennsylvania Avenue. And, it’s one of the few times this week that I have felt completely, utterly, and unflinchingly like myself.

Because that, my beauties, is #BlackGirlMagic. That’s what it looks like and tastes like and feels like and smells like.

I do not know what song was on Linda Chavers’ heart or what string of experiences led her to pen the recent Elle article “I Have a Problem With #BlackGirlMagic.” I cannot speak to what unrest stirred up in her soul and spilled through her fingertips. She is a writer. So, she wrote. She believed in something and shared it through words, which is exactly what writers do. At our lowest common denominator, we have opinions and we share them through words. I’m not here to mock Linda or cheapen her or throw names. I’m here because she wrote something and it did this thing to me. It did that thing where it sucker punched me in the worst way and dared me to respond.

I don’t remember the moment I realized that because I did not look like Emily or Jessica or Sarah, my version of this American life would not be filtered through the same amount of sunshine they had. Emily. Sarah. Jessica. These were my elementary school friends. Buddies. Ace boon coons. Emily always had gel pens and Lisa Frank folders. Jessica lived down the street and left real school after first grade for home school. Sarah had a sleepover once that I had to leave early because I had church the next day. Emily. Sarah. Jessica. Those were my girls. And surely I didn’t look like them, but we still had a shared set of experiences. We had N’Sync CDs and American Girl dolls and parties where we bobbed for apples. We had the same things, but we were not quite the same.

I did not learn this until much later. See, now I know, my sunshine is not quite the same.

I did not learn this all at once. I did not wake up one morning and suddenly understand what melanin-infused skin would mean for me going forward. Some days I still don’t. Some days I struggle to read the cashier’s eyes when he smiles at the woman in front of me and then frowns when I approach. Some days I get tired of explaining what going natural means. Some days I scoffwhen the guy walking out the door pushes past without saying “excuse me.” There are all these things and all these thoughts and all these realities that simmer. Some days those realities attempt to eat me alive.

So, no, my sunshine is not quite the same. But, my sunshine is that #BlackGirlMagic.

I wish from the trenches of my heart that Linda Chavers did not believe #BlackGirlMagic implied that we are, indeed, magical. I wish she didn’t liken it to rabbits pulled out of hats and grand disappearing acts. I wish she didn’t believe it meant that we were superhuman. I wish she didn’t contort the phrase, take it so literally, and single-handedly pull apart this mantra that is sometimes one of the few things us black girls have have left to believe in.

Last week in a video interview with Chasity Cooper, we stumbled upon the topic of #BlackGirlMagic. There we were, two black girls in front of a camera. With a black woman behind the camera directing our shoot. Inside of a coffee shop owned by a black woman. Without even having to answer her question, that was #BlackGirlMagic. Four black women doing what they love. Sharing something they believe in. Reaching out to each other to make shit happen.

#BlackGirlMagic with Chasity Cooper
#BlackGirlMagic with Chasity Cooper

It’s more than a hashtag. It’s more than this phrase I see and roll my eyes at, the way I do with #RelationshipGoals. No, #BlackGirlMagic is Friday lunch with Roconia with my head cocked back laughing far too loudly. #BlackGirlMagic is my hoop earrings on the weekend and my emphatic head nods during the sermon. #BlackGirlMagic is never having to translate anything I say when I am with my girlfriends and emitting my truest self. #BlackGirlMagic is the smile I give the woman at the security desk every day when I wave my badge as everyone else scurries past her. #BlackGirlMagic is when she smiles right back.

#BlackGirlMagic is the dust that settles after you rise and rise again. #BlackGirlMagic is a tribe around you and a community behind you. #BlackGirlMagic is Sade’s By Your Side and Beyoncé’s Love on Top. #BlackGirlMagic is knowing that your sunshine is not quite the same, but every time that sun beats, she is beyond beautiful. #BlackGirlMagic is that oh-so-sweet feeling that dances inside of you when you see another black woman push past naysayers or climb above mountains or find lasting love. #BlackGirlMagic is not at all about being superhuman. It is about being as human as we can get, and knowing that maybe there is another black girl out there who gets us. Hears us. Feels us. Sees us for exactly who we are–flawed, troubled, hurt, stifled, confused, complicated, layered.

And magical.

Xoxo,
Tyece

The Gift of (Mis)Education: Holiday Giveaway With The Ignorant Intellectual

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Author’s note: This post is written in partnership with The Ignorant Intellectual.

Not too long ago, one of my friend’s asked me what topic I have the hardest time writing about. I quickly answered with “feminism” because while it’s an issue I’m incredibly passionate about, it’s also one of those things that I can feel insecure writing about because of the politics and bullshit surrounding it. Sometimes it’s hard to get some sentences down about feminism without feeling like I need a PhD to tackle the subject.

That same “Do I need a PhD to write or talk about this?” uncertainty is exactly what Ashley Daniels a team of young scholars attempt to combat in their first edition of The Ignorant Intellectual’s “The Miseducation Of…”. “The Miseducation Of…”, first released in November 2014, is a book that aims to debunk “myths about various social subjects such as race, gender, post-racialism, and education.” The book also aims to “teach those sitting outside the academic silos of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world.”

When I first spoke to Ashley, a PhD student at Howard University pursuing a doctoral degree in Political Science, I knew she had the kind of down-to-earth awareness that could drive a project all about translating complex, academic terms into language that the everyday person could speak. I loved the intent of the project because even for me, someone who has a college degree, it’s still incredibly tough to follow how some scholars speak or feel confident speaking on issues such as race, feminism, womanism and social justice.

So, here are a few of my thoughts about “The Miseducation Of…” followed by a chance for you to win a copy of your own!

Review

What I enjoyed about this first edition of “The Miseducation Of…”

The length: The first edition of the project is a quick read of about 50 pages. I put on some Black Messiah and read through the book in an hour. I appreciate that it didn’t take too long to get through the content, yet the content was still substantial and well-written.

The mixed media: “The Miseducation Of…” includes both essays and poems, and the poems really help to break up the reading experience. Even though the book is short, reading an essay is always an in-depth and dense reading experience, so it was nice to also have some poems that tackled issues such as media literacy and post-racialism in a more artistic way.

“Black Folks’ Dirty Little Secret: The Miseducation of Mental Illness” It may be because I’m still in the post War on Black Women’s Bodies daze, but this essay was far and away my favorite. In the piece, the writer, known as BaldSheagle, states “Part of me wishes there existed a culture in the black community where strong and vulnerable could coexist, where being mentally ill warranted support in lieu of shame.” YES! Like a few of the other essays in the book, this is one that I highlighted ad nauseam, knowing I would return to it again as a reference point for my work.

What I want to see in the second edition: 

Even more plain language: If “The Miseducation Of…” seeks to break it down for the everyday person, especially those outside of academia, I think there are still some opportunities to get the language to a level that is easily understandable. One essay where I wanted to see this idea manifest was in “Sisterhood and Solidarity: The Miseducation of Black Feminism and Womanism.” When I initially read the title of this essay, I was instantly drawn to it. But, it still took a few reads for me to really digest the concepts.

A robust social media presence: While this doesn’t apply directly to the content of the book, I am excited to see what The Ignorant Intellectual team will do with its online presence. Right now, it’s tough to find much about the group or the book online, and I know in today’s world we too often believe that if we don’t see it on Twitter or Instagram, it simply doesn’t exist. This is a quality product and online marketing will only help to get that product in front of more eyes.

Holiday Giveaway

Now we want to know what YOU think! Here’s your chance to win a free copy of “The Miseducation Of…”

Fill out the form below no later than 12 p.m. EST on Friday, December 26. Two winners will be selected at random on Friday afternoon and each will receive a copy of “The Miseducation Of…” Don’t miss out on this opportunity to support a great project! 

No Justice, No Peace

“Millions of tears have fallen for black sons, brothers, lovers, and friends whose assailants took or maimed their lives and then simply went on their way.”
― AberjhaniIlluminated Corners: Collected Essays and Articles Volume I.

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.I Have A Dream

I, too, dream of the same thing, Dr. King.

I hope you will join me in taking some time to reflect, to hurt, to sting, to roar, to let this lack of an indictment gut you the way that it should. I have opted not to post any new content for the remainder of the week. Erica and I have also chosen to postpone tonight’s Twitter chat to next Wednesday, December 3, still at 8 p.m. EST.

R.I.P. Michael Brown. An artist, a revolutionary, a trailblazer, a game-changer that this world never got a chance to fully know. I will continue to pray, hope and wish with my tiny beating heart that one day America elects to value black bodies in a way it keeps failing to do.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Chronicles Of The Overachieving Black Girl

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Six Fridays ago, I arrived at my apartment door and found what is now one of my most coveted possessions: the complete season of Daria on DVD. I used the Amazon gift card my sister gave me for my birthday to purchase the set and spent the next few nights binging on the first two seasons. The binge watching continued during the subsequent weeks. I discovered a newfound appreciation for the wit and sharp writing of a show that I couldn’t exactly understand during its run in the late 90s when I was wearing pigtails and hitting up Ms. Donahoe’s fifth grade class.

I love many of the characters on the show (my favorite is Daria’s best friend Jane Lane because she is a cynical asshole, but she’s also artistic and much more well-adjusted than Daria.)  But, another character who resonated with me was Jodie Landon, the only black recurring character aside from her boyfriend Mack Mackenzie. Jodie is smart, likable and over-extended when it comes to her extracurricular activities. Watching the episodes where Jodie appears reminds me on some level of my own high school experience, one that also took place at a predominantly white school. I understand Jodie because I was one of those black girls who knew people and they knew me, but I wasn’t in any popular inner circle. I wasn’t exactly overextended when it came to extracurriculars, but I worked pretty hard and did well enough to join the world of college and, later, student loan debt.

Jodie could be considered an overachiever. The same could be said for Olivia Pope. Or Annalise Keating. Or Michaela Pratt. (And if at least one of these names does not ring a bell, I’m going to question our friendship.) These are all fictional black characters whose ambition and zeal resonate in good and bad ways with the black female audiences who consume them. But, when it comes to being a black woman, I don’t know if overachiever is even an accurate term. Often times, it feels like what the rest of the world considers an overachievement is just a basic achievement in my book. Maybe we’re all kind of like Olivia and our parents are all kind of like Rowan:

Rowan: Did I not raise you for better? How many times have I told you? You have to be what?

Olivia: Twice as good.

Rowan: You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.

I don’t know if I ever directly heard the phrase “twice as good” in my household, but I know that fucking up was not an option. Bad grades weren’t an option. Slacking off wasn’t an option, at least not if you wanted to live to see your eighteenth birthday. My mom wasn’t in the PTA. She didn’t chaperone field trips. But, she drilled me before spelling tests and asked to see every report card that made its way through that front door. My sister and I did not have permission to entertain mediocrity. Now, I appreciate both of my parents for that lack of permission. So, who knows if I’m insanely intrinsically motivated or if I’m just conditioned to do things well and right. I don’t know and I don’t quite care.

I’ve called myself an overachiever before. So have many others. But, now, I would like to settle in the comfort of knowing that I do things well and I am damn good at what I do. I am not over-anything. I am achieving. I’m accomplishing. I’m learning from mistakes and resetting my sails. I’m bouncing back. I’m showing up. I am doing the work. I am putting my head down and doing the motherfucking work. If those things are considered overachieving, I damn sure do not want to know what “achieving” is.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Feature: Ariel of Revolutionary In Pink Pumps

 

Editor’s Note: I stumbled upon Revolutionary In Pink Pumps by happenstance one day on Twitter, but the concept immediately struck me as something unique, bold, brave and beautiful. Ariel, the woman at the helm of Revolutionary In Pink Pumps, is the kind of person who strikes you as wise beyond her years. She tackles issues such as race, body image and culture with poise, guts and deftness. After starting the blog as a hybrid of fashion and social issues, the space has evolved in conjunction with Ariel. Read more about her journey as a writer, goals for the blog and why she calls herself an “accidental feminist.” Meet Ariel. 

Age: 22

Location: NJ/ NYC Metro Area

How did you come up with the name Revolutionary in Pink Pumps? What does that name represent for you?
When I started the blog I had two big passions, fashion/style and culture/society. I wanted the blog to stand out from all the fashion blogs so I thought that the title would show that I encompassed both fashion and social commentary. As the blog developed I lost the fashion aspect of it, because I cared so much more about the lifestyle and social commentary aspect. Revolutionary in Pink Pumps has grown to showcase that wanting to be involved in societal discussion doesn’t mean you burn bras and picket MAC counters. The blog tag line is “Glitter, Heels, & Social Revolution” because I can’t imagine my life without all three and I want people to know that they do not have to exist separately. I’ve presented academic papers on Black women in media in gold-heeled DVF pumps.

 You tackle topics such as race, body image and culture on your blog. What empowers you to write about these topics in such a powerful way?
The most important thing to when I tackle a topic is that I know what I am talking about. Anything I write is typically based off of experience, or the opinion that I give on a topic is based off of my experience. If something doesn’t move me or relate to me I typically won’t write about it, not because it isn’t important but because I recognize that someone else can probably give it a better voice than I can. I grew up in the midst of an ongoing conversation about race and culture, because I was consistently the only Black face in a lot of my settings so I feel comfortable discussing race and culture. As someone who has battled and overcome an eating disorder, I feel like body image is so important and should be discussed more. People don’t realize that race and body image even cross over into each other. I remember reading teen magazines and wishing that my voice was represented, that my issues were talked about, and they never were; so I write for all the brown girls like me who didn’t have a space growing up. Knowing that what I write relates to someone reading it reminds me that I should keep writing.

What are your upcoming goals for Revolutionary in Pink Pumps?
Right now I think visibility is my biggest goal. I want to increase people’s interest in topics and find my niche, since I hang in the balance of a few niches. Once I’ve got a concrete audience I want to start developing a few series for the blog and maybe expand, I want to know what else people want to know.

ariel for twenties unscripted

Who are some of the bloggers and writers you follow and consider revolutionary?

The Black Collegian 

Mixed Fat Chick 

The Haitian American 

Jezebel

In Her Shoes 

For Harriet 

There are a ton, honestly  can’t even keep a list, I typically just add articles I like to my news app and let it do the work for me. I also read a lot of news Black news outlets. I also love to use Instagram to discover new content, it’s like a blog all its own.

You’ve mentioned before that you do not consider yourself a feminist. In what ways has society made it difficult to assert the “feminist” label?
I like to consider myself an “accidental feminist”, I’m in the midst of defining that myself at the moment, via a blog post, but I think that because feminism has always been somewhat of a counterculture, society has made those who align with it very much the ‘other’. Feminism has so many definitions from so many different outlets and lately it’s gone from the “othering” to an everyday word. It’s kind of like love, I don’t think it should be tossed around as loosely as it has been. All of the sudden because someone claimed that Beyonce is a feminist, every girl wants to slap on a t-shirt that says ‘”This is what a feminist looks like.” And while I think it’s great that feminism is gaining a viable visibility, I think it’s really important for people to be educated about what they’re claiming to be. If you can’t tell me anything about bell hooks I feel as if maybe you should tuck your feminist shirt away until you can find the nearest library.

On your blog, you’ve said, “The goal of this blog is not to tell you you’re wrong or change your belief, it is in fact to give you a different perspective.” How do you deal with Internet trolls or people who approach you with comments that are not constructive?
I don’t think that you can be a writer without having tough skin. When you put your opinion out there you’re open to some hurtful stuff and I’ve had a few trolls who really tried to come for my neck. Trolls love confrontation; I don’t. Everything is case-by-case for me but more often than not I’ll respond with facts. I don’t like to drag anything personal into a battle with trolls, because then it becomes a back and forth of “yo mama” proportion. If they’re nasty about my writing or the context of the blog, I simply thank them for taking their time to sit and read it, let them know they’re entitled to their opinion, and if it fits, then I throw in some facts from the piece or the blog to kind of shut down their snark.

What are some of the Revolutionary in Pink Pumps posts that most reflect your brand as a blogger?

Why Sharing Jill Scott’s Nudes Is A Violation of Every Black Female Body

The Beauty Salon Taught Me Self Hate

Diary of a Fat Fat Shamer: The Breakthrough

From A “Strong Black Woman Who Don’t Need No Man”

What keeps you inspired?
Sometimes I’m convinced that the only ones reading my blog are my friends and relatives and while I love them, I know they already understand a lot of what I’m trying to put out in the air. Sometimes I think it won’t matter if I blog this week or not, but honestly I can’t keep my mouth shut. There are too many things I see happening that I can’t chime in on and bring light to. We miss a lot, because mainstream ignores a lot and even if my post only reaches 10 people, I recognize that it may be 10 people who never would have known about something before the post. When I don’t feel like writing I remember what it felt like to cruise media and not see myself in anything as a young brown girl and remember that I write to try to contribute to the space for faces like mine.

arielAriel is a college graduate with a bachelors degree in English/Journalism and Professional Writing and a concentration in African American studies. Her writing experience spans past editorial work in publications and encompasses PR work, administrative writing and social media use. She has experience writing lifestyle, events, food, fashion, beauty, and social/racial commentary, but is most often found on her personal blog Revolutionary In Pink Pumps. Follow Ariel at @RevInPinkPumps