Black Girl Magik is an online and IRL platform, but it’s much more than that. It’s a collective that speaks to and for women-identified folk across the African diaspora.
Through physical gatherings and digital content, BGM seeks to unite and empower women of color through politically-informed dialogues around self-care, healing, recognition, networking, and exchange. As founder and executive director, Shydeia Caldwell puts it, “The more I learn about my history and family genealogy, the closer I get to me.” That’s Black Girl Magik.
The collective that counts artist Princess Nokia among their loyal fans, is planning a US-wide event/workshop tour starting Summer 2019, that’ll see them travel across the country, creating programming and meeting creators in NYC, LA, Atlanta, DC and New Orleans. There will be a site extension including new services, and Black Girl Magik merch. This is where the Girlboss Foundation grant comes in.
“The more I learn about my history and family genealogy, the closer I get to me.”
We’re thrilled to announce that Black Girl Magik have been awarded the latest Girlboss Foundation grant, for the first half of 2018. Below, Caldwell—along with a bunch of key collective members—talk us through their backstory and what’s next forand guys, keep your eyes peeled to the grant application page—we’ll be opening the next round soon.
Why the name Black Girl Magik?
Shydeia Caldwell, founder and executive director:The name Black Girl Magik because there is no better name to encompass the feeling and action of black women gathering in a space of love, honesty, humility, realness, creativity, and encouragement. I think Sampa The Great did an excellent job of depicting what it means in her “Black Girl Magik” song and video.
How did BGM start?
Shydeia Caldwell, founder and executive director:I was inspired to form a collective when I had the opportunity to be guest panelist at Brooklyn Museum for BUFU’s Community Conversation with Art Collectives. During that panel, I gained so much knowledge on how oppressive and harmful hierarchical structures can be for marginalized people. I launched Black Girl Magik in New York with no financial backing during the summer of 2015. At the time of BGM’s first meetup, my bank account was minus 20 bucks.
With my focus zeroed in on the mission, I completed my undergraduate degree in South Carolina while managing the steadfast expansion of Black Girl Magik in New York City. Currently, I am navigating the complexities and hardships of being a black business owner … The accessibility to sustainable financial growth is a real topic of conversation for black women entrepreneurs.
What does a Black Girl Magik event look like?
Sierra King, social media manager: It feels like home. You are greeted from community members with hugs, smiles and an energy that envelops you as soon as you walk into the room. It gives you permission to place your bags down, take your coat off, remove your shoes, all of the things that you are holding on to and just breathe. There’s always music and sounds playing, not jarring but still makes you want to get up and dance just because.
What have been the biggest difficulties in getting BGM off the ground?
Zai Aliyu, creative director: Since our inception as a collective, we have operated remotely across several locations and time zones. This has posed a challenge for how we organize, interface, and collaborate productively with one another. We’ve overcome this by leveraging tools that help us communicate more efficiently, generating workflows across our different roles that has led to fruitful and fluid cross-functional exchange.
“It is fulfilling the dreams of our ancestors. It is love…the love of our skin, our hair, our culture, our history, our future.”
Our grassroots work, as fulfilling as it is, remains an uphill battle within the larger context of that which proceeds us and that which has yet to come … Remarkable revolutionaries have advised us to beware of forces that serve to distract us from organizing collectively; we can’t allow physical distance to keep us from our collective praxis.
Why did you apply for the Girlboss Foundation grant?
Amina Cush, PR director: We applied for the Girlboss Foundation grant because it was imperative that we continue to provide safe spaces for women of color to share their stories and begin their healing journeys. Our platform provides an outlet for WoC to express themselves authentically without judgment. As such, it was important that we seek outside funding sources to expand our program offerings and ensure the sustainability of the BGM platform.
How are you going to use the funds to grow Black Girl Magik?
Isabelle Ofume, events director: They’ll be used to establish self-sustaining components to the BGM brand while expanding our community and brand goals for the next year. Lots of exciting work will be coming out of us in 2018/19 including but not limited to our North American Tour and the community marketplace. Our community programming will touch areas in the US and Canada … We will be able to interview the women of color in these locations which add to the greater BGM narrative centered on love, self-care, recognition, healing, and professional exchange.
Where do you want Black Girl Magik to be five years from now?
Shydeia Caldwell, founder and executive director: In Beyonce’s recent interview with Vogue she said, “There are so many cultural and societal barriers to entry that I like to do what I can to level the playing field, to present a different point of view for people who may feel like their voices don’t matter.” I felt that shit in my heart chakra.
BGM’s underlying mission is to create space for black women in every industry we are not fully and respectfully represented. In consequence, that is essentially why we exist as an arts space; a hub for dialogue and critical consciousness; a multimedia realm; a center for solidarity and self care.
What does #blackgirlmagik mean to you?
Amora Miller, editor: To me, #blackgirlmagik is existing and flourishing as a self-identified black woman. It is thriving in a world that never intended to see us succeed. It is righteousness and ratchetry. It is establishing and nurturing an inclusive and accepting community to support all of our sisters throughout the diaspora.
It is setting in motion the processes to collectively and individually heal from generational trauma and to create a legacy for ourselves. It is fulfilling the dreams of our ancestors. It is love…the love of our skin, our hair, our culture, our history, our future.
Black Girl Magik is:
Shydeia Caldwell – Founder and executive directorSierra King – Social media managerZai Aliyu – Creative directorIsabelle Ofume – Events directorMaureen Nicol – Project managerAmora Miller – EditorAmina Cush – Public relations director
Interview edited for length.