'Black girl magic' is more than a hashtag; it's a movement

Blackgirlmagic is being used among black women to celebrate their power and beauty

Jamescia Thomas | 2/25/2016, 9 a.m.
Coming of age in the early '90s, Marcia Smith says, her mother made sure she would grow up to be ...
By now, anyone plugged into social media has seen the terms #blackgirlmagic, #beingablackgirlislist or #melaninonfleek. These hashtags are accompanied by a range of photos, from black women rocking natural tresses to Beyonce's backup dancers at Super Bowl 50 or simply a photo of a small child basking in the sun's rays. (Photo: Apple)

The high-schooler created blkgirls, a page on Instagram dedicated to showing beauty and excellence among black women across the world. She curates this content by using #blackgirlmagic, #melaninonfleek and #blackgirlsmatter. Sankey created the page last year and has already gained over 60,000 followers.

"My entire motive was simply to highlight the beauty of the black woman and promote self-love," said Sankey, who lived in Jamaica until she was 11 and moved to the United States four years ago with her family.

"This type of space was needed because black girls and women need to know it's not OK for those 'black jokes' being made and it's not OK to feel like you're any less than anyone else because of the color of your skin."

Sankey said she gets daily messages from women and young girls telling her that her page has changed how they feel about themselves.

Phrases like #beingablackgirlislit #blackgirlmagic #melaninpopping are being used by black women among each other to affirm their beauty and intellectual prowess, unapologetically celebrating every inch of themselves and each other. Spelman professor Michelle Hite said it's a natural outgrowth of the way black women support each other offline.

Hite, who teaches English studies, said the phrases have become a way for black women to say, "I see you [black woman] and I see you excelling and being successful in a context that is hostile to your very presence there, which makes it all the more glorious." Hite admitted it has been her affirming relationships with black women that have made her "recovery" possible.

Many black women have to recover from the traumas they may experience simply being a black woman in today's society, according to Hite.

Hite recalled that during a group discussion, a student told her about attending a sleepover with white friends. The student came out of the bathroom wearing a headscarf, which was used to protect her hair at night. She said the girls at the sleepover told the student she looked like Aunt Jemima. Hite said the student couldn't muster a response. On an overnight college visit, the student wore the same headscarf and a black student told her she looked like an African princess.

"It was the same scene but the outcome enabled her to recuperate her sense of dignity and a sense of humanity that was no longer humiliated by something that she was doing everyday but all of a sudden in this context with these white girls it became shameful," Hite said.

"It's black women who have acknowledged that 'I've done enough.' Black women, who have always been the ones who have given me permission to love myself and like myself."