by Reagan Williams
(Source: Pexels, 3 Motional Studio)
Within the last decade, a number of Americans were immersed in grassroots activism ranging from protesting, volunteering for issue campaigns and donating to progressive causes. These momentous movements such as Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, to Dreamers galvanize the majority of Americans to address social justice matters. These movements highlighted the wealth and income gap, violence and systemic racism toward Black people, and immigration rights for students who called America, their new home. This increase in activism has been unprecedented since the Great Depression, including the movements of the 1960s.
One of the significant movements of the 1960s, was the The Cambridge Movement, led by activist and Cambridge native, Gloria Richardson. The Cambridge Movement stemmed from The Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC) in 1962. The CNAC focused on targeting segregation and racial inequality in the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the city of Cambridge. At the time, Richardson was 40 years old and became a leader in demonstrations over equal access for Black residents.
(Gloria Richardson pushes away the bayonet of National Troop during protest in Cambridge, Maryland. July 1963. Courtesy of National Museum of African American History and Culture.)
Richardson’s advocacy was for a peaceful change in the areas of housing, education, jobs, and health care for Black Cambridge residents. Her activism caught the attention of the Kennedy administration along with the nation as she became an essential leader of the movement. Although, little did she know that over sixty years later she would be the impetus for another movement, Black Girl Magic. The picture of Gloria Richardson at 40, embodies the power of how people can make an impact at different points of their life and should not be afraid to do so. Cashawn Thompson was inspired by Richardson and wanted Black women to join with their fellow Black women kinfolk against racial oppression and the significance of it.
“ What I knew of womanhood was Black, you know, so I always thought that we were magic.” -Cashawn Thompson, Creator of #BlackGirlMagic
In 2013, Cashawn Thompson at the age of 40 got tired of the media frenzy and its negative portrayal of Black women. There were stories circulating that Black women had the most cases of STDs. Then, there was an article published about how Black women represented the most unattractive human beings and negative press about tennis player, Serena Williams not meeting the norms of femininity and beauty. Thompson believed, "Black girls are magic,” and couldn’t comprehend why the media was coming for Black women. Therefore, she took to Twitter, and #BlackGirlMagic was born and shortly after, so was the movement. This Washington D.C. native is known for being a social media influencer and her award-winning blog, Little Dirty Pretty Things. Thompson has become revered as a Black cultural pioneer with her creation of the concept “Black Girls Are Magic,” focusing on the accomplishments, beauty and other amazing qualities of Black women. Thompson believes in the power of Black women and Black women are the original influencers of culture globally. She has introduced to the world that Black women and girls make everything or make everything better.
What does #BlackGirlMagic mean in a broader sense? Overall, it means that Black women wherever you are in the world, you are awesome, dope, and inspirational. As a movement, #BlackGirlMagic has evolved from a hashtag into informing current and future generations of Black women know they are valued, should aim to reach their fullest potential and embody their inner and outer beauty. Black women and girls should not question their “own magic" and believe in the power of it. Black girl magic encompasses a lot of adjectives and meanings, when people describe it as, “empowering,” “successful", “my mother or grandmother was Black Girl Magic,” and the experiences that shape it for every Black woman or girl.
Historically, Black women have embodied Black Girl Magic. Black women have fought against racism and gender discrimination ranging from well-known activists and civil rights figures i.e., Rosa Parks, Jo Ann Robinson, and Dorothy Height. These women embodied Black Girl Magic for the type of magic we have seen emerged today in our culture with Black women i.e., with former First Lady Michelle Obama, to artist Jamila Woods singing about #BlackGirlMagic and Black women’s importance in history. The capabilities of Black women and what Black women do with their talents, their make-up and who they are is their own Black girl magic. Each Black woman or girl always has their magic- so go forth and channel yours.
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