Amandla Stenberg’s black girl magic by hafsa musa

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Amandla Stenberg

as i’m sure you’ve all heard by now, on January 7th actress-activist-spokesperson extraordinaire Amandla Stenberg came out as bisexual on Teen Vogue‘s SnapChat story. joining the likes of Solange Knowles, Willow Smith, Ava Duvernay and countless others, Amandla acknowledges the need for more representatives of alternative modes of blackness and black womanhood and, finding few vocal representatives currently in action, decided to make herself one. from a firm Tumblr and social media presence, to guest-writing articles, to making informative videos, Amandla identifies herself as a social leader once again in her brief blurb on Teen Vogue‘s SnapChat story, as well as in her later interview with Solange Knowles:

I wanna thank Teen Vogue for giving me this opportunity, I cannot stress enough how important representation is, so the concept that I can provide for other black girls is mind-blowing. It’s a really really hard thing to be silenced, and it’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and just mold yourself into shapes that you just shouldn’t be in. As someone who identifies as a black bisexual woman, I’ve been through it, and it hurts and it’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable. But then I realized: because of Solange and Ava Duvernay and Willow and all the black girls watching this right now, there’s absolutely nothing but change. We cannot be suppressed. We are meant to express our joy and our love and our tears, to be big and bold and definitely not easy to swallow. I definitely believe in the concept of rebellion through selfhood, and rebellion through embracing your true identity, no matter what you’re being told. Here I am, being myself; and it’s hard and vulnerable, and it’s definitely a process, but I’m learning and growing. Thank you for supporting me and doing this, and thank you to Teen Vogue. This is just the beginning, though; we have a lot of work to do for all women of color. We need more representation in film and television. We need our voices to be louder in the media. And not just women of color—bisexual women, gay women, transgender women, mentally ill women. I’m sick of all the misogyny and homophobia and transphobia that I see around me, and I know you are too. Thank you for listening and goodnight.

growing up black and female, it’s easy to internalize the misogyny, the racism, the shame and hate thrown at you from all sides. it’s easy to swallow down all that vitriol and think, “this is okay. i deserve this. this is what and who i am.” i know i certainly did, and the bullying and hate i experienced up until my late teens from friends, strangers, and family is most likely nowhere near the amount other black female-bodied people and women faced and face. black females are taught to hate themselves and view themselves as inferior to others in matters of beauty, morality, sexuality, and life expectations. we are taught not to ask for help or even admit that we need it. we are encouraged to be silent and submissive, and when we reject such instructions we are punished for it, often violently.

black girl magic is a movement in and of itself. in her interview with Solange, Amandla equates black girl magic with an awakening of the spirit, soul, and body, a desire to accept one as one comes, a newly found belief in one’s capabilities and an acknowledgement that you deserve life’s happinesses. it is a rejection of the demand that black women and female-bodied people make ourselves small and comforting for others at the expense of ourselves. black girl magic is collective nonconformity to anti-black womanhood and anti-blackness, and it is connecting entire generations of black women and girls. its ability to connect all kinds of women acts as the physical, real-life proof of the “shine theory” (becoming friends with like-minded, self-reflective people makes you shine all the brighter) that Amandla summarizes in her interview with Solange. it is a movement. and it is goddamn powerful.

consistently a user of black girl magic, Amandla continues to make my heart brim with beautiful, carefree joy. she is the role model i sought growing up without clearly accessible queer role models and it enthuses me to know that she is the voice and role model for my generation and those to come.

beyond the importance of her public coming out, Amandla’s social media presence uplifts through sheer force. her fearlessness, her vocal support of black artists and youth, her dedication, her determination, her dynamism—all render Amandla another black youth to keep an eye on. she’s doing fantastic things and i know, i trust that she will do even more as she grows.

for me, Amandla embodies black girl magic. she is fierce. she knows her own power, and she names it, unafraid of white society’s consequences or backlash. Amandla is hermeneutic; she defies the cutesy names and adages white media ascribes to her in an attempt to downplay her message(s) and takes on only the signifiers she approves of. in a world that seeks to call black women by any other name than their own, that is a feat in and of itself.

as Amandla reminds us, black women—and black women’s magic—“cannot be suppressed” by societal and individual factors seeking to do them harm. the intrinsic beauty, power, and capability of black womanhood is strong enough to defy those who attempt to dismantle it and bend it into a different mold. black women are meant to “express our joy and our love and our tears, to be big and bold and definitely not easy to swallow.” black womanhood does not need to be well-packaged, or neat and clean, or meet any standards other than those established by she who possesses such womanhood. black women and black female-bodied people’s daily lives are a practice in refusing to become bite-sized blurbs, anecdotes, caricatures, and props in the dominant white narrative. Amandla’s evocation invites us to reject the breakdown of our personas and our bodies into pieces whiteness can easily ingest. we are not tools or products or gimmicks. we are people, and the evocation of our selves is tantamount to rebellion against white overtures. we are all learning and growing into vulnerability, into care for another and ourselves, and the evolution of our collective selfhoods are reason enough for me to celebrate. black girl magic saves lives. it is evolutionary and revolutionary, a divine form of resistance. we cannot be suppressed.

as someone who struggles with all Amandla outlines, i resolve to pursue my own evolution and my own particular brand of queer black nonbinary magic. she writes:

We cannot be suppressed. We are meant to express our joy and our love and our tears, to be big and bold and definitely not easy to swallow. I definitely believe in the concept of rebellion through selfhood, and rebellion through embracing your true identity, no matter what you’re being told. Here I am, being myself; and it’s hard and vulnerable, and it’s definitely a process, but I’m learning and growing.

Amandla, your words are on my heart today. thank you for being proud. thank you for using your voice and status for good. thank you for being you. and, above all, thank you for being magical.

 

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