I still believe in magic. As a Black woman, I feel it every day.
I've lived in Northern Virginia my entire life. I'm the first-born daughter to proud, home-owning, southern Black parents. I'm from a suburban town about an hour away from D.C. and two from Richmond - on a good traffic day, at least.
For the most part, I grew up sheltered. My parents never discussed the realities of anti-Black racism, as they never quite knew how to. My mother saw it as more of a "birds and bees" type conversation, where she hoped to avoid it until I matured enough to truly understand. And, growing up in such a diverse area, there was the tiniest semblance of hope from my parents that maybe, just maybe, the anti-Blackness embedded in our nation's blood and bones would never touch me.
But I learned early on that anti-Blackness doesn't disappear from the lives of Black Americans, even if we've done everything "right," played by the system's rules, and achieved beyond society's expectations. It is a constant, palpable, active threat hanging over the heads of Black Americans from the moment we are brought into the world to the day we leave it. Anti-Blackness doesn't disappear with the wave of a wand or a wish upon a fleeting star.
Sandra Bland's death in the summer of 2015 served as my awakening to the systemic racism in the United States; the curtain drew back and revealed the truth of how violent anti-Blackness could be. For three days after seeing Ms. Bland's mugshot photo, I broke down. I was ill. I mourned for her and all the other Black lives stolen far too soon. The image of Ms. Bland's pale face and sunken eyes were permanently etched into my memory and, alongside my grief, I was introduced to a new feeling: rage.
I felt rage for Ms. Bland and every other Black life taken by law enforcement. I felt rage for the Black lives whose names or stories were never publicized.
I felt rage going to school the day after the 2016 election. I begged my mother to let me stay home that day, not wanting to face the aftermath. She declined, and the moment I stepped through the school doors, I was met with violent racial slurs. I wasn't the only Black girl at school who endured this - I wasn't the only Black girl in the nation who endured this, that day or in the days to follow. So, despite feeling infuriated and even powerless about the state of the world, I did the one thing I could think to do at a time where Blackness was under attack. I created space.
In response to anti-Black harassment following the inauguration, I co-founded my school's first all-Black and all-female organization: Black and Empowered, called BAE for short. BAE's mission was to "educate, embolden, enlighten, and empower Black girls" in the local community. For the next three years, I dedicated myself to uplifting Black girls and women by creating and holding spaces designed specifically for them. I wanted Blackness to be celebrated and I did everything in my power to do so. And through my time with BAE, I saw - I felt - just how magical Blackness and community could be.
To me, Black Girl Magic is comprised of a shared love of identity, culture, and community. It is about celebrating Black femmes and their strides in whatever they do, wherever they do it. But it's also about acknowledging the roles we all play in our communities and how, consciously or not, we all contribute to systems that perpetuate anti-Blackness.
Doing the work requires acknowledging the privileges in my background and using said privileges to support the people around me. It is about using whatever resources I have to aid others. It is about not just bringing more seats to the table, but making sure everyone gets to eat. I do this work because I love my community and loving my community means acknowledging the institutions that are actively working against us and working to abolish them.
And despite everything fashioned against it, I love my Blackness. I wake up each day grateful that I'm a Black girl. I owe absolutely everything to the Black mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins who raised me, and I'm grateful for them. I watch what thousands of Black femmes accomplish across the globe, and I'm grateful for them. It's because of all of them that I do what I do. It is because of them that I am who I am.
So, after all this time, I still believe in magic. Because I have seen it in myself and others.