~When I was growing up in the Bronx, it was the black women around me who were leading the charge to mentor me while at the same time holding me accountable. Between my mother and aunties, I was always witnessing black women from the mundane to the extraordinary “doing the work” to support everyone else. We didn’t call it #BlackGirlMagic then, I just assumed it was the norm. Khrysta with her mom and sister The foundation of love and support I had was put to the test when I entered high school. l started ninth grade at a specialized high school in the Bronx where the black population was an underwhelming 4%. My pride in attending such a prestigious school was often marred by the constant microaggressions from classmates (who made jokes about Father’s Day being the most confusing day in Harlem, because of course being black is synonymous absentee fathers), my principal (who would ask us to stop acting ghetto if we were being loud instead of just asking us to make less noise), security and truancy officers (who often asked “you go to this school? – can I see ID?” while my Asian and white peers were able to walk freely). Despite the sometimes unwelcoming school climate, the cheerleading squad became a space where I uncovered #BlackGirlMagic at school. Our cheerleading squad comprised black and Latina girls and we created a space to celebrate each other and our cultures when creating routines. This was around the time when dancehall music was making a resurgence in mainstream music, and we incorporated dancehall moves such as the “thunder clap” in our routines. Using pieces of our culture in the routines, we affirmed each other and let the rest of the school know that we belonged here. In cheerleading, I was surrounded by other black girls creating routines and celebrating each other. There I found that welcoming community that validated my experience. #BlackGirlMagic is what I’ve always known and never before named.
~I started #BlackGirlMagic at my school because our young people are exposed to so much about our culture that is important, but negative. They know about police brutality and history. They talk about how black womanhood is portrayed, or about black women who have become successful entrepreneurs. But this class is solely to celebrate black womanhood and everything that means in all its multiple truths. Through this class, we hold rich conversations. I am fortunate that I was able to facilitate our class receiving natural hair products—from great companies like Miss Jessie’s, Oyin Handmade, Kinky-Curly , and Jane Carter Solution—as we dived into identity and the Politics of Black Hair. I am indebted to these young women for trusting me enough to be vulnerable in this space. I remember hearing the quote “you have a responsibility to the community that raised you,” and for me that community has been black women. I spent college and grad school thinking about how to find a career field where I could leverage my resources to foster that community. Since I will never be able to pay them back, #BlackGirlMagic is how I pay it forward.