I’m going to let you in on a secret – I am a black woman.
Yes, I know I’m stating the obvious. But before you stop reading, what if I told you that merely acknowledging this simple and obvious fact has filled teachers, colleagues and friends with fear.
Either they would be scared that just by saying the word ‘black’ (sometimes not even a racial context), they would have somehow offended me. Or they would deflect from their discomfort with phrases like, “you’re like…black on the outside but white on the inside!”
Till this day, I’m still not quite sure what that even means. But I digress.
Malcolm X once said, “the most disrespected person in America is a black woman”. And while the UK is decidedly not America, the truth of this statement is universal.
As a black woman, you take on the burden of being one of the most discriminated demographics in world. From maternal deaths rates to the gender pay gap, at every single professional level, we’re the ones suffering the most.
But all this is just a small part of my story. Being a black woman, especially one in the PR industry, has given me an interesting and unique perspective of the world, one that isn’t seen or heard from often.
So, I want to share with you my experiences as I’ve tried to understand what it means to be a black woman in this country, and through it, show you why every agency needs some black girl magic if they want to thrive in the 21st century.
Back in 2018, I was in final year of university. I had taken photography as my main module and needed to create a huge final project for the end of year showcase.
From exploring human emotions, to toxic relationships and a dozen other themes, it took me weeks to figure out what I wanted to focus on.
In the end, I settled on a piece called ‘Whitewash’ – an exploration of a number of industries that did not cater to black women.
As I developed it over the weeks, people were stunned by the things I’d highlighted as whitewashed. Everything from nude clothing to simple plasters, I was able to give everyone some insight into my truth, the hurdles I come across every day that they didn’t even know existed.
No one truly understood my project, at least not in my class. Only other black or ethnic minority students seemed to understand the relevance of what I’d unearthed in my project.
And it was in that moment that I realised just how powerful my voice was. How important it was that people heard my truth, no matter how difficult it may be.
Black girl magic
First coined by CaShawn Thompson in 2013, Black Girl Magic – first a hashtag, then later a movement – is more than a hashtag or trending topic. It’s a necessary movement trying to make the world a more inclusive place.
It’s a collective stand against the stereotyping and outright racism black women face daily. And with personalities like Solange Knowles, Corinne Bailey Rae, Barack Obama and Amandla Stenberg among its many supporters, the movement is growing more popular every day.
When I first came across it, I thought it was such a great way to emphasise just how great we are. For me, it’s a celebration of my uniqueness and resilience, and a reminder to love myself for who I am and the perspective I bring. Above all, it’s a supporting network for black women to uplift each other.
But of course, this movement didn’t come without its share of criticism. Why? You guessed it:
“Why not White Girl Magic?”
Sound a little familiar? There’ll always be those who try and spin the narrative and detract from those trying to instil positivity into the black community, which is a shame. But it’s a prime example of just one of the many battles we can face every day.
That being said, please remember that us saying #blackgirlmagic doesn’t mean we think we’re superhuman – just that we’re celebrating us when no one else will.
A different perspective
I grew up in a world where you didn’t mention race to save yourself having “difficult conversations”. One where trying to fit in was important so people didn’t pay attention to how you’re different.
I still catch myself suppressing my own blackness in some situations. I’m not perfect and I still have a lot to learn about myself, my history and my peers.
But one thing I do know is that being silent is no longer an option – people need to be constantly reminded that we exist. And to do that, we must be unapologetically ourselves. So it would be disservice to myself and those that fought to get me here if I didn’t put my black girl magic to good use.
My experience is so unique and underrepresented, and that’s what makes it special and important. Other black woman may share my perspective, but we are few and far between, especially in the PR sphere.
And to all the black women I know, work with or happen to be reading this, if you don’t feel you have a seat at the table, tell everyone to move up and make room for you. Our time is now.