As #BlackGirlMagic Turns Four Years Old, CaShawn Thompson Has A Fresh Word For All The Magical Black Girls
"It's not just for women who have line sisters, and women who go to brunch..."
Affirmed by President Barack Obama and cosigned Misty Copeland, #BlackGirlMagic is more than just a hashtag; it has become a movement, a mantra and an unapologetic statement of self love. Held up by celebrities like Jesse Williams and Taraji P. Henson, defended by artists like Solange Knowles, and literally worn on the backs of influencers like Amandla Stenberg, #BlackGirlMagic has pierced the zeitgeist as a defining expression of the spirit and the mood of the moment we're living in.
All the while, the woman responsible for the movement has quietly taken a back seat to the hoopla. Like a proud mother, CaShawn Thompson has been content to sit back and watch it thrive. "I never wanted it to be about me, " she said. "It was important to me that black women and girls got the message that they are magic, they are important, they are successful, they are beautiful and that all the good things in the world that we want, we deserve and should have." As Twitter marks the 10 year anniversary of the hashtag, we celebrate four years of #BlackGirlMagic by honoring the woman who created it.
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In 2013, when she coined the phrase "Black Girls are Magic" (later shortened to Black Girl Magic), Thompson created a movement. Nearly five years later and it's still a rallying cry for the culture. I recently sat down with Thompson to discuss the inspiration behind the phrase that has become a womanist maxim, here's what she had to say.
"At the time that I put the hashtag online there was this deluge of negative press about black women. An article had come out in Psychology Today about us [black women] being the least physically attractive people on the planet, and then there was something on another platform about us having STD's, and then there was something else about us not being marriageable; all this negative propaganda, just one bad thing after another," she said. "That was not my experience at all. I know plenty of black women who are married and have partners. I see black women as being extremely beautiful."
Frustrated by the ways in which black women were being portrayed in media, Thompson took it upon herself to change the narrative. Of all the affirmations she could have come up with, magical black girls flowed naturally for her. "It was something I've always said to myself since I was little," she explained. "As a kid, I was really introverted and I loved fairytales. I had a big imagination and all these magical ideas that weren’t rooted in reality, and when I saw the women in my family running businesses, raising families, making a way out of no way, to me as a little girl it just seemed like magic. As a child, I literally thought that black women were magic, so when I put it out there, it wasn’t a new concept for me but I'm glad it resonated with other black women and girls."
It's no wonder that the magical phrase has gone on to enchant an entire generation of women. While Black Girl Magic has served it's purpose to motivate and inspire and combat negative stereotypes surrounding black womanhood, it has also drawn the ire of women of other races who felt excluded from the black girl celebration. When Thompson caught wind of the backlash, she didn't let it bother her.
"I wasn't dismissive of it. I thought about it quite a bit, and I came to the conclusion that I just can’t allow myself to care too much about what non-black women have to say about what we do for ourselves," she said. "I thought about it and I said, 'I get that they may feel left out but that’s not my problem. Nobody was going around saying that Asian women were the ugliest women or that White women would never get married. They didn’t need it in the same way that we needed it."
Although, she's been pleased with the reception that the now iconic phrase has gotten over the years, Thompson wants to make one thing perfectly clear. "I have to specify the meaning of Black Girl Magic, because I've heard that there’s been backlash within our community where some women feel like they’ve been left out of the movement because they don’t meet certain criteria," she said. "It's not just for women who have line sisters and women who go to brunch and graduated from college; I need everybody to understand that the Black Girl Magic movement was created by a woman who didn’t finish college, and had babies young, and grinded in menial jobs for years. This movement is for every black woman – the ratchet girls, the hood girls, the trans girls, the differently-abled girls. Black Girl Magic is for all of us."
*Sprinkles fairy dust. Drops mic.