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.
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.