Black Girl Magik isn't a club, or a cult. It's a movement. Founded in 2015 by Shydeia Caldwell, a senior at the University of South Carolina, Black Girl Magik is an on and offline platform giving women of color the tools they need to be seen and heard. Through cultivating a digital community and hosting events, BGM is making self-transformation, self-empowerment, and self-definition possible.
When cultivating productive spaces in real life, namely through Black Girl Magik workshops, both Caldwell and Brittany Josephina, a life coach as well as BGM's workshop partner, implement ice-breakers and activities that help women tap into their own magick, energy, strength, and power. Whether it's by being honest with a group of women with their eyes closed surrounding you in a circle, or through meaningful conversation, the activities presented in these spaces encourage women to share their voices in a truly empathetic environment. These sort of spaces are rare — and for BGM, giving women of color the opportunity to tell their stories while finding lifelong friends in the process is vital.
Caldwell, who identifies as a witch, brings magick, tarot, and ritual into the BGM events in a palatable way, whether it's by including a tarot reader, meditation, or art. Though the process of tapping into one's energy and intentions is deeply personal, it's the sense of community that makes the positive vibe of BGM spaces so real. Through workshops and the online platform which features women of color artists making waves in their respective fields, BGM is giving a voice to those who are very often ignored.
And although the term "Black Girl Magic" is charged, to some implying another version of the "Strong Black Woman" trope, Caldwell emphasizes the realness of the collective and the spaces it creates — spaces for women who have never truly had the opportunity to be seen, felt, and listened to. "I choose the name Black Girl Magik because for me, when women of color come together in one space, it's just positive energy and they're able to see each other in ways they may not have been able to see each other before. They can be complete strangers and open up about anything and everything and walk away from the event with a new friend, a new sister — a lifelong friend."
What's the story behind Black Girl Magik?
Shydeia Caldwell: Black Girl Magik started in summer of 2015 and I started it because I was tired of not being able to communicate with my peers in a more intimate way. I was yearning for conversation that felt meaningful so I started to to do events. While I was there I was interning in the fashion industry, I was broke, and I was like, you know what? This would be a cool way to make money too, so I did a donation-based event and it ended up being a success, I think it was like 30 or 40 women. After the first event I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It gave me a feeling of happiness that I've never felt before. So since then, I have made it into a company and we have been on tour this year and have been to places like Emmanuel College and Smith College, we've gone to Boston, and did a lot of events in New York City. Next year in January is when I'll be starting again and going on tour to implement safe spaces for women of color. The safe spaces are usually workshop-oriented and concerts, and I do panels.
What kind of events do you do and what's your purpose with these events?
Brittany Josephina: Within the spaces we create we often do workshops, so we'll start with an ice-breaker to get the women acclimated with one another. Then when we dive into the workshop we pull back the layers in getting real with where we're at in the moment, and speaking about being a witch, and tapping into our intuitive sides. What we do is pretty much like ritual work, without saying, "hey guys let's do a ritual," but we're unpacking the layers and we do that through tarot, we do that through meditation, we do that through intentional conversation. We like to find creative ways to get the women involved in doing that.
What are some of the creative ways you do that?
Josephina: I think through the interactive aspects of the ice breakers and the exercises. So, for instance, we do an eye game so we get the women standing in front of each other, and we have women of color who are DJs and they set the mood, and we tell them, take your time, look each other in the eyes, and when you both agree without speaking, move forward, and by the time you're face-to-face with your sister, you tell her what you saw in your eyes.
How do you go about finding the women you feature on your site?
Caldwell: For "Our Stories," it's submission based. As far as features, like interviews, I pick women who I feel deserve to be interviewed and who I don't see on more mainstream publications. I pick people who are relatable, I pick people who remind me of me, because I'm a regular person. My followers are probably like me too, and they want to be able to read a story and relate to it. They want to feel like the advice that this person is giving is something feasible for them to achieve as well. And I feel like a lot of times on different platforms, people don't feel that way — they can't relate. And so my passion when it comes to interviews is to make it relatable. And not only to pick people who are amazing, but who are also everyday people.
How has your online platform helped to foster this community of women?
Caldwell: In general, a lot of black women in America and other places around the world, don't feel like they're seen. We want black women to feel seen but seen in a positive light and to see different variations of women of color.
Josephina: One variation is the strong black woman, but it's like, I'm strong but then I'm sensitive and then I'm vulnerable, and then I'm woman and then I cry and then I'm creative and then I'm powerful. All these things that make you magick. Your sensitivity is magick, your existence is magick. You define the magick for yourself. It's a reclamation that's taking place in workshops and through our digital forum. There's such a powerful thing in the mundane, and it's about finding magick in the mundane.
What are your dreams for this platform and who's your dream person to feature?
Caldwell: My dream for Black Girl Magik is to not only create an online and offline platform but I want to create a place for BGM in every area of art, in music, in film, in fashion — I want BGM to be in everything so the presence of black women goes seen and recognized and rewarded. Everywhere is lacking. The people I would want to work with are Solange, Solange, Solange. Beyoncé of course, and The Internet.
What's the best way for someone to get involved with Black Girl Magik who may not have access to your events?
Caldwell: If they want to bring an event to their location, they can reach out to their community organizations, galleries, and venue spaces to see if someone is willing to work with us. If they're at a college or school, they can reach out to their multicultural department or whoever is in charge to get us to their school, because we want to be able to implement these spaces any way we can. We want more people to reach out to us and let us know.
Words Gabriela Herstik
Photography Isabelle Edwards