Something must be in the air or maybe it’s the water, but it seems that black women are shining a little bit brighter and bolder these days. Whether it’s Amy Sherald being chosen to paint the official portrait of Michelle Obama or the creation of the first Black Girl Festival in London, black women and girls are doing it. 2016 was a banner year with Beyonce and her Black Panther-inspired dancers setting the Superbowl and the internet on fire with their unabashed tribute to blackness and Lupita Nyong’o and her fellow actresses made history when their play, Eclipsed, written by Danai Gurira (of The Walking Dead TV show), became the first Broadway play with an all-black female cast. That’s #blackgirlmagic for real! To celebrate magical black girls everywhere, here’s a list of the black women past and present who’ve inspired us.
Magical Black Girls You Oughta Know
I didn’t learn of Nina Simone until high school, but once I was introduced to her music, there was no letting go. In typical dramatic teenage fashion I would lay on my bed with the lights off and play her songs on repeat. One song in particular, “Wild is the Wind” was my favorite, it perfectly captured the angst of heartbreak so common in your teens. There is something so mysterious and moving about her music. It wasn’t until I saw the Netflix produced and Oscar-nominated documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? that I learned the inspiring and heart breaking story of her life. Check out the excellent documentary here: https://www.netflix.com/title/70308063
Octavia Butler made scifi cool for black girls. In her books, Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and Kindred, among others, black women were the protagonists and she didn’t shy away from talking about race and gender. She’s regarded as the queen of science fiction and was the first science fiction writer of any color to win a MacArthur Fellowship, known as the “Genius Grant”. But before all of the awards and accolades Butler was just a writer, and one for whom considering both her race and gender winning those awards would have seemed like science fiction. A recent discovery of her journals shows that she foretold her own future: http://blavity.com/octavia-butler/
The first time I saw Kara Walker’s work, it left me speechless. And if you’ve never seen one of her beautiful and troubling silhouettes in person you’ve done yourself a disservice. Walker’s work is an in your face indictment of racism, sexism and power that is delicately rendered but with a subject matter, often slavery, that is too shocking to turn away from. Her current exhibition, Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power, is touring the country, but you can view some of her work here: http://www.artnet.com/artists/kara-walker/
Magical Black Girls You Might Not Know
Pamela Council is a sculptor, printer, writer, and performance artist. Her sculptures and prints draw inspiration from popular culture and images and histories from the African diaspora and frequently use unconventional materials. Interested in some thought provoking work that’s also pretty to look at? Visit her website: http://www.pamelacouncil.com/
Founder of the Well-Read Black Girl Book Club, Glory Edim, has made it her mission to spread the gospel of black literature to all who will hear and read. Her popular Instagram page provides almost daily literary inspiration and news on emerging and established authors. Looking for a good book to snuggle up with this winter? Check out her website for more books and authors: http://wellreadblackgirl.com/
Made up of twins Paris and Amber Strother and bandmate Anita Bias this alternative R&B group has won some high praise from the likes of Prince and Erykah Badu and they’ve only recently released their first full-length album. King is currently on tour — see them before they get too big. Check out the group performing their song, “Supernatural” on NPR Presents and visit their website for more musical goodness: http://www.weareking.com/
Who are the Magical Black Girls you have on your list?