#BlackGirlMagic at Afropunk London
Too often, black women aren’t given the recognition they deserve.
Issues such as colourism, misogynoir, boxed stereotypes and racism continue to complicate, and at moments, inhibit the progression of black females across the globe, where the media neglects to acknowledge their achievements and Eurocentric ideas of beauty reign supreme.
Black Girl Magic (or #blackgirlmagic) emerged as a battle cry to contest this. It’s a celebration of the intelligence, grace and resilience of black women. Though some have disputed the movement as counterproductive – stating black women are not magical but in fact human, and should be readily accepted as such – Black Girl Magic’s success in rallying together black women and instilling black pride is undeniable.
Afropunk made its initial launch in Brooklyn 2005. It has since expanded to Paris and Atlanta, with 24 September marking its London debut. It’s widely considered to be one of the most ethnically diverse festivals in action, and places a major emphasis on its black artists.
An inspiring and empowering event that insists its audience and beyond align their blackness with greatness, Afropunk has succeeded in creating the legitimate space for black girls to let their magic shine through. So Afropunk London provided the perfect arena for us to question festival goers and artists alike on how the festival interlinks with the Black Girl Magic movement.
This is my first festival and as a black girl, I obviously had to come and show support. Black Girl Magic is having the power to go forward and translate your ideas into a reality. Afropunk reflects a lot of the African and Caribbean diaspora. Here, black females are their own boss.
I’m here because London Afropunk is something that was long overdue. There’s a lot in the public eye about appropriation but not enough about celebration. Black Girl Magic means embracing a struggle that has helped form our identity and made us magical. It’s time we started tapping into it and letting everyone know we are unique.
I’m here to witness all that is black girl magic; the fashion, hair, everything that represents blackness and that represents me. It’s the ability to be carefree and not carry so much burden whether it’s to do with my skin colour or politics, but rather to exceed as an individual black girl.
Black Girl Magic means believe in your slay! The media puts a downer on who we are as people and imposes limits on what we can do. Black Girl Magic is a reminder to be beautiful in your own skin and not to be discouraged by what you see on TV or magazines. I was at Afropunk Paris last year and it opened with an announcement stating there was no sexism, ageism or colourism allowed. Afropunk doesn’t want any segregation, you come as you are with an open heart and mind.
Black Girl Magic means empowerment. Remembering the diverse beauty within a black woman and allowing that to unapologetically explode. Afropunk allows your black girl magic to flourish in whichever format that may be. Whether thats punky or more Nubian Queen Erykah Badu, or even a fusion of the two. You are a complex mixture of all these elements and still black.
It’s so fantastic that Afropunk has come to the UK allowing us all to showcase our talent alongside their iconic brand name. I’m all about female empowerment and there are a lot of females in this line-up… so I can’t ask for more.
Afropunk really comes through as a festival for women of colour, it’s unique and diverse. The music industry does need to invest more in black female artists however. What we see on our screens is carefully manufactured but that is not a true reflection of real women. We always watched Afropunk afar when it was in Paris and New York and now we get to be a part of the movement. Our music is a blend of urban punk, grime, rock and Afropunk is diverse enough for us to exhibit it. People have this stigma of the angry black woman and Black Girl Magic allows us to overcome that stereotype and be something special. It encourages us to embrace ourselves and not conform to particular beauty ideals. We can’t wait for the conventional form to suit us, we are not looking for acceptance either, it lets people know black girls are here to stay.
I actually had a discussion regarding this theme with a friend who quoted Chris Rock’s comedy skit saying “you know things are okay when you can be black and mediocre!” and I imagined the hashtag #blackmediocre! I am definitely pro Black Girl Magic. I love the celebration and supportive network of black females it encourages. I can see also see the side that wants to just be black and you, and not have to make a statement out of it. Afropunk reflects black girl magic in its welcoming approach to people experimenting with colours, accessories, style. It’s a safe place to do this.
I’m a spoken word artist and have performed at a lot of festivals including Goddess the first all-female U.K festival, but at Afropunk I feel most at home. Honestly I’ve never been big into hashtags but I feel like its women of colour looking inward and reflecting that light that you have within, expressing a side of you otherwise hidden. Women of colour are generally quite marginalised and told to fit into certain stereotypes, but in Afropunk we can be liberated and expand into these spaces that are sometimes cut off from us.
I’ve been excitedly waiting a long time for today. Afropunk means freedom, expression and loving support. Black Girl Magic means lifting up black beauty that doesn’t always get mainstream media attention. Afropunk gives us a platform to celebrate this.
All photography by Nadira Amrani