CaShawn Thompson gave us the #BlackGirlsAreMagic hashtag six years ago, and it has since spread like wildfire among Black women and girls worldwide.
Thompson started highlighting our successes and leveraging it to motivate people. Since then, it has appeared on t-shirts and advertisements, been discussed and explained in publications, and been the subject of scholarly papers and panel presentations.
Thompson claims her pro-Black upbringing made her feel attractive, amazing, and loved from infancy. In a world that devalues Black girls, it's fantastic to learn Thompson had a supportive community that boosted her self-esteem. I want this for Black girls everywhere -- to hear and know that we are unique, magical, and deserving of wonderful things.
This makes me think about my younger self and what I'd tell her. As an only child, I spent much of my formative years in mostly white environments, where I didn't feel very special. The counsel I would give to my younger self is this:
Regardless of what others may say, aim high and don't give up.
As a young child, I had lofty aspirations, including that of becoming a gymnast, working as a writer and journalist, and even an archaeologist. However, I was frequently dissuaded from doing them, sometimes by family members and teachers, sometimes because I had never seen someone who resembled me doing them and didn't believe that they were feasible for me. Looking back, I should have pursued those goals more assiduously. When people don't grasp something, are intimidated, or lack imagination, they're generally negative. I'd say to my younger self:
The opinions of others don't matter now and won't later on when you're an adult. There are no limitations. You may become the first Olympic gymnast to write about archaeology with some effort and the right circumstances!
You always fit in and are intelligent and competent.
How many Black women do you know who have doubted their skills at work, school, or elsewhere? I've done it, I'm sure of it. I can think of numerous instances where I felt unworthy or out of place during group projects at school or meetings at work. I always felt anxious in these circumstances. I questioned my being there and my intelligence, and I felt the need to establish my worth in the eyes of others. I'd say to my younger self:
"You are intelligent and sufficient just as you are. Here's a little-known fact as well. You will encounter people who aren't quite as remarkable, smart, or skilled as they first appear to be. A lot of them are just acting it out!”
Become close with other Black ladies.
I've always been friendly and had various friends. Because I was typically in white places, my closest friends weren't Black women for many years. I've learnt how much Black women lift each other up. Those interactions have provided me delight and educated me about myself. Because of my friendships with Black women, I've gained jobs, been comforted in sickness, pain, and bereavement, and won prizes. My sister-friends make sure I have beautiful hair and style. I'd tell my younger self:
Always have a group of Black ladies you can lean on.
No matter where you are, don't be scared to embrace joy and dance.
My family valued appearance and reputation. I always worried about what others thought. I wanted to avoid being overly loud, showy, or noticeable. I remember sitting off to the side or dancing in my chair at high school and college dances. I feared embarrassing myself while others had fun. I missed many happy moments. Now I laugh as hard and loud as I can, dance in stores when I hear a song I love, and try to find joy in tiny things. I'd tell myself: I'd say to my younger self:
"Dancing is healthy for the body, heart, and soul, and joy is essential to life, especially in a world that doesn't want Black women and girls to prosper."
We need to constantly remind ourselves as well as the Black girls in our lives that they are really magical.