#BlackGirlMagic. We’ve seen the hashtag, read the tweets, ogled over the Instagram pictures. You yourself may have used the hashtag for yourself or your Woman Crush Wednesday. Being magical is more than just taking amazing pictures and smiling through the glitter. Black girl magic is that amazing resilience that power that breeds success in the face of adversity. This issue, we interviewed two magical black women on campus to find out how they use their powers to empower others.
Professor Donna Auston is a force to be reckoned with. Standing at five feet and five inches, you may not assume so, but looks can be deceiving. This anthropology PhD candidate has been through the Ferguson riots, protests, and teach ins and has been documenting them for a while now. Auston’s primary focus is Black Muslim activism in the context of the Black Lives Matter Movement as well as the overall portrayal of black Muslims at the moment. While at least a full third of American Muslims are Black, making them the largest racial group within the American Muslim population, often times their stories are erased from the narrative.
“When we think of Black Muslims, we often think of voluntary immigrants from Africa, but many of us were not voluntary immigrants and that’s not necessarily what I’m looking into”, said Auston. According to Auston, Black Muslims are also overlooked when talking about Black religious experiences. For example, in trying to gain the Black vote, Donald Trump attempted to have a meeting with 100 Black pastors. Nobody cared to consider the non-Christian black population. When we think of Martin Luther King’s activism, we automatically tie it to his pastoral missions as well as the church. However, we never tie Malcom X and his ideology to his faith. “People need to understand all of this and the intersectionality between race, gender and religion. When they do, it creates complications, but also possibility for hope, change, and freedom,” said Auston.
The African American movement towards Islam had roots in the ideology to challenge the status quo. After slavery and the Great Migration, African American communities became frustrated at how they saw religion play a part in their enslavement. To truly free themselves, they had to also unchain themselves from all mental frameworks they were taught to believe, including their Christian religion. In that sense, the Black Muslim movement was truly a movement of liberation to create self-sustained communities and opportunities that were uniquely their own.
So what place does this have in today’s renaissance of civil rights? Auston explained that hate crimes against Muslims are at an all-time high as well as hate crimes against African Americans. Islamophobia paired with racism is a dangerous pair, but it’s an unfortunate reality of being human, commented Auston. However, despite all of these things, she has a mission that she’s dedicated to and refuses to back down. It’s simply not in her character.
“You can’t stop being who you are because there’s someone out there who may be uncomfortable with it. There’s always somebody who’s not going to like it. Sometimes the backlash is severe and sometimes it’s very violent. This is what our ancestors did and they fought so we can live with the imperfect freedoms that we had. Our task is to continue that in any way we’re able,” said Auston.
So what makes black women so magical? Auston replied, “There’s something about being despised by almost everyone in the world, but still managing to be brilliant and beautiful under these conditions. I want my daughters to understand that they’re magnificent and beautiful. Don’t be afraid to claim it”.
Dr. Brittney Cooper
Dr. Brittney Cooper of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department wants answer one question: What will it take for black women to become free? The answer to that is exactly as complicated as it seems. She believes that Black women still remain invisible. Studies looking at incarceration, mental health, and education mostly focus on Black males and not their female counterparts. It is only recently that researchers have begun seeing Black women as a worthy subject.
According to Dr. Cooper, Black female schoolchildren are suspended six times as often in comparison to their white counterparts. This can be due to the fact that they’re seen as overly aggressive and have higher of sexual harassment or abuse. Unfortunately, this has negative outcomes on their achievement or their behavior. While th is phenomenon is not new, the research is. Black women deserve to be heard in any way they know how, demands Dr. Cooper.
These sentiments bore the beginnings of her crunk feminist movement. The movement began in Cooper’s undergraduate days at Howard University. A group of outspoken, unapologetic women who enjoyed jamming out to crunk music decided that they did not have to put what they love aside because it does not fit exactly into feminist politics. “There is a feminism of shaking your ass in the club. It’s how we can work out our trauma and how the music fits its way into the body. It’s unapologetically us. We’re not interested in being polite,” said Dr. Cooper.
According to her, black women since the 19th century could be described as crunk, although not in the modern sense. While they held fast to some of society’s standards, they completely rejected others to fight for the well-being of their race. Together, they created spaces for black people to survive. That, Cooper explains, is the essence of crunk. Some other role models include her mother, Ida B. Wells, Paula Murray, and a list of others because she refuses to pick just one. “It’s impossible to pick just one because that was never a sustainable role model for how black women effect change. They always had a crew and they always worked together. Even me, I’m not here because of my own steam. It’s because I had black feminists before me and guiding me, “said Dr. Cooper.
So what makes black girls so magical? Cooper describes it as the way black women and girls can make a way out of no way. They can look at anything and build something out nothing and soul-food out of scraps. “The world can tell us we’re nothing, but we still walk around like we’re the shit”, said Dr. Cooper. This crunk feminist just wants to leave one legacy: Be unapologetic. Never apologize for who you are or how you do things. Make sure you’re the best at it and that’s it.