– ALMA NALISHA CELE
“FOR BLACK GIRLS ONLY”
“Dipped in chocolate, bronzed in elegance, enameled with grace, toasted with beauty. My lord, she’s a black woman.” Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan is famously quoted as saying. He must have had the attendees of this year’s #ForBlackGirlsOnly in mind.
The biography of this event’s Facebook page describes it “as is a radical, militant, and unapologetic space centring the lives and experiences of all Black women through various talks and events.” What an absolutely fitting description of a beautiful space for women of colour who often have no other spaces to be unapologetically themselves without apology for our blackness, femininity and politics. The poignancy of the location of this event at what was previously the site of the “Women’s Jail” at Constitution Hill was not lost on me.
Prior to this event there were a number of debates which raged regarding its validity and necessity with accusations of prejudice thrown in for good measure. That such debates even exist is evidence of why an event continues to be necessary even with our current dispensation. Black women continue to be under represented in pivotal areas of industry and the economy. Furthermore, the ideals of beauty further isolate black women, a Google search for the ‘World’s most attractive women’ is quick but painful proof of that. The reality continues to exist that black women’s features and beauty are only considered attractive on women who are not black. The racist comments on the MAC Instagram page regarding the full lips of a black model are a painful reminder of the unforgiving double standards black women continue to be subjected to. And perhaps, this is why I was rendered speechless at all the ways black women were beautiful at this event from their afro’s to their weaves, decked both in traditional garb and edgy street style. This was the first time in my life, I’d seen black women be allowed to be themselves without the expectation of what ‘black beauty’ should be, be it natural and fresh faced or face beat with make-up done to the gods.
There were a myriad of stalls showcasing businesses run by black women with such overwhelming support displayed. Hopefully this put to the rest the incorrect assertion that black women don’t support each other. This entire event was a rebuttal not only to this stereotype but to so many others regarding women of colour and their interactions. Black people are often caricatured as not being well-read or interested in literature despite the number of brilliant black female authors who continue to astound the literary world. Anyone who witnessed the giddiness and excitement of the well-read women who took part in the book exchange at this event will bear witness to the untruth of the stereotype described above. Toni, Angela and Maya would have been proud. I have never seen so many works by black women being quoted, bartered and exchanged with such pride and enthusiasm.
Perhaps the moments which most made my heart sing in the joy were right on the stage, on that grass where black women of all ages, shapes and sizes danced and sang to the music which has provided the soundtrack of our lives. Hearing generations of black women sing Brenda Fassie and own the dancefloor without the ever present male gaze was refreshing and affirming in ways I remain unable to articulate yet. To hear black women sing with no restraint in unison of freedom, hope and joy is the revolution in four part harmony that has been spoken of.
In many ways, #ForBlackGirlsOnly was a refuge from the various harsh spaces black women occupy tirelessly without invitation or approval. It was a direct response to Ntozake Shange’s exclamation that ‘being alive and being a woman and being coloured is a metaphysical dilemma I haven’t conquered yet’. Just for that day, in the company of brilliant, knowledgeable and unapologetic black women my bones heavy with metaphysical dilemmas received rest and renewal. There is something so powerfully affirming about the presence of women who look like you, experiencing the same struggles inhabiting the spaces that you do bringing forth assurances that ‘we gon’ be alright’ and not only are we going to be alright, we’re going to slay in the spirit of Angela, Albertina, Maya and Ellen.
Reflecting on the magnitude of this event, I was reminded of the words of the poet Mahongany L Browne in her seminal poem, Black girl magic. “You are a threat knowing yourself. You are a threat loving yourself. You are a threat loving your kin. You black girl magic. You black girl fly. You black girl bridge. You black girl wonder. You black girl shine”
Wow, powerful piece of writing.
Thank you Alma, lots to ponder on.
Until the next Guest Blog Post,
Live in Light and Love ❤
A. and K.