May 17, 2019 Interviews
with the research director and social media 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?
This changes depending on which Grandmother you are asking. My Paternal Grandmother, Vickey Williams, is from Southwest Atlanta because the west side is the best side. My Maternal Grandmother, Ethelyn Stephens is from Cocoa Beach, Florida and her family transitioned to Atlanta, Georgia. I also have relatives that migrated and transitioned from the South to Cleveland, Ohio and Washington, D.C. I grew up in Metro-Atlanta, Cobb County, and I currently live in Smyrna, Georgia. Still, respectively, I will always pronounce Atlanta without the Ts - (Ah-lann-uh).
Between BGM meetups, online content and creative productions, we are endlessly creating love notes, safe spaces and hubs of transformation for Black women. This personally sets my soul on fire. How does it feel to be uniting, empowering and supporting the healing Black women - and in turn the African Diaspora?
It still feels like something so unreal, that my words and my thoughts have been the catalyst for an online and offline community of over 40,000 women. This is just the starting point for something greater that will require all of us to acknowledge and amplify the need for communal healing.
What words would you use to describe the magical sisterhood that is BGM?
Community. Resource. Power. Sisterhood. Freedom.
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 so much power in free will and choice. The best choice that you can make for yourself and your community is making your own rules, designing your life to fit your needs and protecting your peace at all times. That starts with taking care of yourself.
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?
As a Woman with a Southern Black American experience, I always knew that there was more. There was more than the slur of my words. There was more than Church on Sundays. There was more to what I had come to know as African American history that encompassed all of my Blackness. There was a vastness that I had no recollection or knowledge of, only an intuition that there was more.
I remember telling my African-American Literature professor that English didn’t sit well on my tongue. And it was when I read, nayyriah waheed’s “African American ii”, that I broke open.
“i lost a whole continent.
a whole continent from my memory.
unlike all other hyphenated americans
my hyphen is made of blood.
when africa says hello
my mouth is a heartbreak
because i have nothing in my tongue
to answer her.
i don’t know how to say hello to my mother.”
Understanding that I didn’t have the language but my soul was still calling to know where I came from pushed me to look deeper into spiritual practices. I became more aware of how I took care of my body and aligning with like-minded women who were also searching for a place to heal not only themselves but past versions of their lineage.
I began my creative career as a photographer and have now expanded that skillset as an archivist. I have always been an archivist; collecting memories and preserving them in such ways that honor the spirit at all times, whether they are in front of my camera or the photograph is in my hands.
Currently I am the photo archivist for the Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver Family Photo Archive. Kathleen Cleaver, a Woman of the Black Panther Party, Mother, Student and Wife, has amassed over thousands of photographs, public and private correspondences, journals, newspapers, audio recordings and more.
It has led me to begin to be an advocate in all of the spaces that I occupy in order to highlight the importance of documentation and preservation of a legacy. The most important being Black Women’s legacies in real time.
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 will be eternally grateful to have grown up knowing and experiencing the love of 1 Great-Great Grandmother, 2 Great-Grandparents and 4 Grandparents.
I am most connected to my Great-Grandmother Annett, which I am named after,through her love of photographs, music and food. The first “gallery” I walked into was her living room covered with photos of our family members. It was a living story of who we were and where we came from. So when I say, “Put the photos on the wall like Grandmama used to do.” I am calling on her, to guide me and remind me of what it is I am here to do, which is to celebrate our loved ones, in their wholeness and complexities through documentation and preservation.
In respect, I call them by their names, Annett Battle. Emitt Battle. Frieda Thomas. Undra Battle. Gary B. King Sr. Nannette Willis. Ethel Willis. Benjamin Willis. Bernie Willis.
What is the next seed you would like to plant for BGM?
I would like us to continue to expand as a resource for Women of African Descent. I'd like to amplify all of our stories and roots with the purpose of acknowledging and being educated about where we come from.