Black Girl Magic: Duke University 2018 Edition

Photography by: Joesph Kim 

I make sense of the present by sorting through the past. Naturally, the coming of senior year planted a need for reflection; a yearning to remember the pieces of time that have led me to this moment, this space, this being. As Savannah and I sat in that cream walled, gray carpeted, Keohane study room, we fellowshipped in this sort of reflection. And we came to realize that the recollection of our time at Duke was so deeply rooted in our community. A family of Black women we have had the honor of spending nearly four years with.

The Black women of 2018 are a community of love, support, and endurance. Now I am not naive enough to say that the 90 (?) of us are all best friends. That we all spend each Saturday night together. And I preface what is to follow by disclaiming that I am only one person. I do not speak for an entire community and there is a diverse set of experiences for each woman. However, I do believe there is a special kinship between us. We care for one another deeply and if the time comes, we will aid one another in whatever way possible. Savannah and I decided that type of bond was cause for celebration. We began making a “Black Girl Magic Senior Year Bucket List.” At the top was a photoshoot.

Being Black is hard. Being Black and woman is harder. In a world that so often overlooks your brilliance, you must be intentional in the love that you craft for yourself. We show this love through action; through purposeful acknowledgments of our queenship. And on that bright October day, we showed our love through this photoshoot. We celebrated our womanhood; our nearly completed four years at one of the most prestigious universities in the country; our existence as “our ancestors wildest dreams”. There was no promise we would make it this far. And despite Black women being the most educated group in America, we are also still one of the lowest paid and highest mistreated groups. However, in this moment we could sit in our accomplishment. We could revel in our statuses as Black Goddesses. See, we are divinely crafted and we will take up as much space as we desire as we celebrate this fact. Through the empowerment we gifted ourselves with, we hoped to bring a bit of joy and inspiration to any and all Black women who needed it.

We were overjoyed at all of the support we have received. Our original tweet has been favorited over 5,000  times. Our picture was reposted by Essence Magazine, one of the most respected media platforms that cater to Black women. It has had well over 45,000 likes throughout Instagram. Figures like Retta from Parks & Rec, Estelle, DL Hughley and more have either liked or reposted the photo. Students from schools like UVA, Stanford, Colombia, UNC, Babson, and Drake University have reached out, telling us how they’re now “plotting” to do the same. The appreciation we have for every person who sent us love cannot be put into words. We thank you deeply.

And just as incredibly, we’ve had so much love on this campus. Savannah, came to me the day after we released the pictures. She said that when her boss looked at the picture, she stared at her, and with a wide smile told Savannah she had to show this to her daughter. We’d be such an inspiration to her. Young Black women should be able to look at social media and not only see women who look like them, but women who are working hard to achieve their dreams that look like them. This photo does not just celebrate us. It seeks to, in some small way, act as a reminder to all Black women that they are phenomenal beings.  

When I look at the photo, it is though I was holding in a deep breath and my soul finally had a moment to release. I feel light. I feel happy. I feel joy when I look at our chocolate faces. Because our beauty and brilliance is being recognized by those around us, and most importantly, it is being recognized by us.

 

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I recognize that not all the Black women in our class are in this photo, and want to emphasize that their presence is important and missed. I say thank you to all the women in this photo. Savannah, this was your brain child. Jessica, Giselle, Jordan and Ebony thank you for helping us put all the pieces together. Thank you so much Joseph Kim for photographing. And thank you everyone who took the time to read this. We have more in store, see you in the Spring.

 

Leaving you with a few of our favorite comments:

“This breathed life into my very BONES. Power, sisters.”

“Very proud of you all. At 64 years young Glad to be blessed to witness. We dream about this day”

“My people are just simply beautiful! Love it!!”

“Absolute dose of motivation! Congratulations to all of these scholars! Continued blessings to all!”

“Beautiful, smart young women. Our future will be led by their brilliant minds and intentional paths.”

“Yassss! Showed this pic to my daughters!”

“Wow, what an honor it is to know all these women”

“She started life… she discovered love… she started the family… she made beauty… she is perfectly dark on purpose… she invented power… she dominated pressing on… she was made to set standards.”

“Beautiful + AMAZING, INSPIRING, FABULOUS, ENCOURAGING, MOTIVATING”

“Is it a university, or is it the Effin GARDEN OF EDEN!!!!” -ruddysirri

“Pic look like it smell like mangos and Cantu”

“WOWOWOQOWOQOWOWO” -ROMITTAMARSU

“This picture smells like organic shea butter, black girl joy, success, hard work, and coconut oil. Such a beautiful tapestry.”

Chandler Phillips