When I think back to my black girlhood, it exists far beyond the childhood montage that you see in movies. It’s sealed in a Vaseline-slick sheen, announced with the clink of barrettes, and punctured by the kind of sting you get from scraped knees and broken promises. There’s an overwhelming overlay of goodness. It’s sepia-toned, bubblegum pink and Nickelodeon slime green. It smells like strawberry Lip Smackers and tastes like cones from the Mr. Frostee truck. I’m well aware that all of this is probably just to keep me sane and promise my present self that an equally colorful future awaits.
Despite the distance that I’ve achieved over the years, I remember my black girlhood as a time where I was compelled to be my full self. To burst at my pink denim seams with a life and joy that I didn’t even know was scarce elsewhere.
Today, this unbreakable and indescribable yet tangible feeling is known as #BlackGirlMagic. This phenomenon has taken on a life of its own and is lovingly offered to every black girl who breaks barriers just by being her damn self. (Yes, it’s like being in an exclusive group just like all the memes say.)
#BlackGirlMagic is a very sacred space that grants us the permission to hold our black girlhood dearly. To name it and define it as something that we can not only own, but also conjure.
At the root of all of this magic is an impending moment and a universal understanding that one day this will all be over. Over time, I’ve been taught to synchronously cling to black girlhood and release myself into the inevitability of black womanhood. To shed my black girl wings for the Michelle Obama-toned arms of black womanhood. But where will the wings go and what do you have to hold on to for that strength?
The carefree black girl who I was raised to be is inextricably linked to a lineage of careful and reliable women. I was taught, albeit indirectly, that black women should have a house, a spouse, a career, and a child. She should give herself to someone or something so fully and decide how much of her own light to keep shining. She may be referred to as a “black girl” well into womanhood. Nostalgia will make her love it. Remember how fun it was? The blood, sweat, and tears that went into making it to right now will make her hate it. Remember how hard it is?
I’m dedicated to creating a black womanhood that comfortably fits all of these dichotomies. The selfishness and selflessness, the discipline and indulgence, the wanting and needing. I don’t want to be a woman who can do both, I want to be a woman who can do it all…for myself. I don’t want to let the spoon-fed sweetness of my black girlhood make black womanhood taste bitter.
So what happens to those of us who are challenged to traverse these stringent definitions without losing sight of ourselves?
I’m still stepping into this black womanhood thing, so I don’t have all the answers. But you know what makes the ride smoother? Sisters. I’m talking about the women who place me directly into my context when every hour of every day presents the option to disavow my identity. My most cherished relationships have taught me that being a black woman means being intentional with yourself and others. It means honoring yourself as a natural resource of love and light. It means summoning the powers of every black woman that did black womanhood so well that you knew it would take a lifetime to perfect it. It’s realizing that being still and knowing is a worthy exercise.
Here are the kind of sisterships that have encouraged me to stay as full and bright as the day I was born:
Sisters who love you enough to tell you when someone else doesn’t.
Sisters who you see from afar and send a whispered wish of continued growth and goodness.
Sisters who you couldn’t see yourself without.
Sisters who memorize the rhythms of your life so you always have someone to back you up.
Sisters who don’t ask questions.
Sisters who showed up at your least favorite memory with your favorite candy.
Sisters who trust you enough to cry.
Sisters who have the courage to laugh and love harder than you.
Sisters who have it all together while you still figure it out.
Sisters gifted to you at birth.
Sisters made by necessity.
Sisters who have seen you for who you are and still stand by your side.
Sisters who give you a place to hide and grow.
Sisters who call you when they need a lifeline.
Sisters who you trust enough to close your eyes around.
Sisters who you see yourself in.