“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”
In 1851, Sojourner Truth, an emancipated slave from New York State, also an abolitionist and a women’s rights activist, delivered this powerful message to The Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. Although this version of the speech misrepresents Truth’s origin and intellect as a former slave of Northern Dutch owners who did not have a southern accent, it speaks to the history of being a Black women in America.
Born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in 1797, Sojourner Truth would have four slave owners, marry, birth five children, escape slavery, become the first African American woman to win a case against a white man in court, write a memoir, buy property, fight for civil rights, travel the country preaching the gospel, and witness the end of slavery all in one life-time. Talk about making something out of nothing. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth after accepting Jesus Christ and declaring that “the spirit called” her to preach.
One hundred and sixty four years after Sojourner declared “Ain’t I A Woman,” Black women in America seem to still be fighting to validate their existence in America. In 2013, Twitter account user, CaShawn Thompson, created a viral hash tag, “#BlackGirlsareMagic,” to celebrate the accomplishments of Black women.
She recently spoke to the LA Times about her inspiration for the epithet:
“I say ‘magic’ because it’s something that people don’t always understand. Sometimes our accomplishments might seem to come out of thin air, because a lot of times, the only people supporting us are other black women.”
Like Sojourner Truth, the hashtag speaks to the ability of Black women to create lives worth living using only the strength and intellect God gave them. In the opinion of most, the world has not carved out much else, but what the spirit of God can give, to support the little brown girl who decides to dream.
Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire from the dirt-poor roads of Mississippi. Michelle Obama is an ivy league educated first lady with a working class background from the South Side of Chicago. The Washington Times reports that Black women lead the nation as the most unhealthy, most victimized, and most underpaid citizens while simultaneously being the most likely to work, vote, and most likely to get a college education compared to their male counterparts.
Persevering and making something out of nothing seems to be black girl way. It is embedded in our DNA.
The world sets standards that say you need an education, money, clothes, power and influence in order to live well and be somebody. But for centuries, Black women have been defying these odds. “Magically” some would say. But is this really magic or rather the way things are suppose to be. Maybe #BlackGirlMagic is a reminder about our true God given identity.
What did Harriet Tubman need to free the slaves? What did Madame C.J. Walker need to invent the pressing comb? How did Mary McLeod Bethune start a school with only fifty cent? How did Rosa Parks change history by refusing to move from her seat on the bus?
All of the powerful Black women of yesterday and today, changed the world without money, power, and more often than not a lack of education. They spoke into existence what they desired and then they made it happen.
There is a popular t-shirt sold online that reads, “I met God and she is black.” This t-shirt further explores this idea that Black women are magic. Having the strength to make something out of nothing over and over again sounds a lot like God to me. And if this is the case, the ways of the Black girl are not really magic and unique, but ancient, necessary, and a better norm for creating a good life than depending on manmade resources anyway.
Towards the end of “Ain’t I A Woman, Sojourner Truth explains “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”
Did you know Lucy, the oldest woman ever found, was discovered in Ethiopia on the continent of Africa? She is scientifically dated to be 3.22 million years old. Sounds like Black Girl Magic is the only strength we will ever need.
Clarissa Joan is a spiritual life coach and editor-in-chief of The Clarissa Joan Experience. She resides in Philadelphia, Pa with her Husband, their two girls, and a yorkie named Ace. Clarissa is also an expert in impact investing. She is the Communications Associate at Impact America Fund.