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  • Shydeia Caldwell

    June 8, 2019 Interviews

    with the founder and executive director of black girl magik

    Let’s start at the root. Where is your family from, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?

    My family is from South Carolina and I am currently exploring my ancestry further with my Babalawo Ade Ofunniyin through his organization Gullah Society who is working on a project called the Anson Street Burials. Through this project, I was able to have my DNA tested by National Geographic and discovered my roots in Cameroon, Benin, and other countries. This has given me the chance to connect with family across the globe. A Southern Gal at heart, I grew up in South Carolina in a rural area with lots of pasture fields, farm houses and families' homes walking distance away. I currently live in New York City in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn where I also carry family lineage. Bed Stuy is my home away from home.

    How did your upbringing shape your experience of your power and your identity as a woman of African descent?

    My upbringing shaped my identity and personal power in so many ways. I was raised by a village of intentional and purposeful black women. This village consisted of my great grandmothers, paternal and maternal grandmother, great aunts, aunts, and mother. I have been rewarded with so much wisdom and sense of self through their teachings of life. It has grounded me and propelled the shaping of my identity as a woman of African descent. Till this day, the values they’ve instilled in me carry through to my divine purpose.

    Between BGM meetups, online content and creative productions, we are endlessly creating love notes, safe spaces and hubs of transformation for Black women. How does it feel to be uniting, empowering and supporting the healing of Black women - and in turn the African Diaspora?

    To be empowering and supporting the healing of Black women and the African diaspora is truly an honor. When my ancestors planted the seed in me during adolescent to create safe spaces for Black women and girls I had no idea the magnitude of what this would become. And it’s truly humbling to be able to lead and birth something planted by the seeds of my ancestral lineage. I truly believe each person's purpose on this earth is their ancestors wishes, dreams, and prayers.

    For someone who isn’t familiar with Black Girl Magik, what words would you use to describe the magical sisterhood that is BGM?

    The sisterhood that takes place in BGM feels like a homecoming, a celebration, a self exploration in a room full of people. It’s a safe space. I also like to refer back to the quote by Naomi Extra, “Black Girl Magik refers to the social and political formation of black women who gather in a physical space to engage in the practice of love, self-care, recognition, healing, and professional exchange. Black Girl Magik names the process through which the magic is made. It speaks to the spaces where black women have and continue to congregate.”

    Self-care is a huge pillar in our practice. It’s the reason why we implement a self-care break at the end of each year where we step back from creating and cultivating to restore and reflect. What is one piece of self-care advice you want others to keep in mind?

    There is no rush because what is meant for you will be only for you. Take your time and do it thoroughly. Our creative processes are to shake and stir the souls of many - that does not happen overnight. It happens in planning, silence, and observation.

    Black Girl Magik’s mission is to heal the collective consciousness and generational trauma across the African Diaspora. Why does this mission personally resonate for you?

    The Black Girl Magik mission resonates with me simply because I was bestowed the vision for this work and have made a personal commitment to follow through with it. This is just the start of bridging the gap between the African Diaspora and this work will continue way after I’m not here in the bone and flesh. I understand the responsibility of being assigned this in this lifetime and intend to do it.

    As collective members, we come to the table with many incredible gifts and talents that we share in our roles, but are also exploring outside of BGM. Can you tell me a little bit about the work, art or interests you are cultivating?

    Aside from operating BGM day to day, I am a multidisciplinary artist with a deep interest in ancestral traditions. I’ve been exploring such through documenting myself in spaces that my ancestors once dwelled and creating Super 8 film pieces in those locations. It’s called Metamorfosis and right now I am in the heavy research stages. I look forward to sharing, when timing aligns. I also plan on going back to school to get my PhD. I will be studying through a cultural anthropological lens - methods of healing throughout the African Diaspora, as well as African spirituality.

    The reason why we center ancestors in our work is because we understand that pathways, dreams, sacrifices and love was created so that we can exist today. As Maya Angelou declared, “I come as one, but stand as 10,000.” What ancestor(s) do you carry with you?

    I carry the ancestors of the Igbo Landing.
    I carry the ancestors of the Gullah Geechee.
    I carry the ancestors of my West African heritage.
    I carry the ancestors of my Afro-Cuban heritage.
    I carry my ancestors because it is my responsibility in this lifetime.

    What is the next seed you would like to plant for BGM?

    The next seed that will be planted is really actionizing our mission in creating these spaces for women of the African diaspora which calls for expansion of where we do Black Girl Magik Meetups. Excited to meet my sisters across the globe.

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