The term #BlackGirlMagic has been tossed around in the media lately. It has many different meanings and conclusions, yet all of them are unapologetically Black. And being Black is a powerful thing. When I post on social media, I use this hashtag because I believe in our magic. So I took it a step further.
My friend Laila and I did a photoshoot encompassing sisterhood, identity, art, and style and entitled it #BlackMuslimGirlMagic. Why? Because Black Muslims exist, too. Yet our voices are almost never heard.
Identity: Split in two
I grew up in the ghettos of Detroit to a single mother with five children. It was in the 90’s, when being Black or being Muslim wasn’t so cool. And especially not together. As an adolescent, there was this constant yanking of identities. The Blacks said I wasn’t Black enough because I didn’t wear shorts, and covered my hair with a hijab (Islamic head covering). The traditional Middle Eastern Muslims thought I wasn’t Muslim enough because I didn’t wear all black or cover my face with a veil. I was of both cultures, but of neither.
I wasn’t able to articulate this division, so I kept it bottled up inside. To me, I was just me, but everyone else just didn’t get it. They wanted me to fit perfectly inside some stereotypical square, but it was impossible. So, I ditched both and did my own thing, becoming a style rebel. I went through a punk rock period where I wore black nails and dark eye makeup, then there was the girly-prep stage where I’d wear pink button-ups, and, I can’t forget about the urban stage where I wore snapbacks and bedazzled hoodies. Oh, the fashion shame.
In between those stages, I remember a time that I gave in completely. I wanted to be “normal.”
Society made me believe that I couldn’t be Black and Muslim and thrive in each one equally.
So I took off my hijab and put on a pair of shorts. To say the least, it felt good to have the wind blow through my kinky hair and the sun on my bare legs. But then I felt weird as the day went on. I loved being Muslim. Dressed like that, no one could tell that I was Muslim at all.
When I got home, I put my hijab back on and thought hard about what I had done.
As a young adult in college, I still found myself seesaw-ing between being too Muslim or too Black. And truthfully, in my mid-twenties, when I stopped trying to cram myself into one category and began loving who I was inside was when things started to change drastically. I was a fat, Black, Muslim girl in Detroit. And that was OK. I started a style and body positivity blog in 2013. I wanted to show the world that you can be anything and everything and kick ass while doing it.
Black Muslims in the Media
The media is somewhat to blame for not accurately showcasing Muslims of color. When we see Muslims or they talk about Islam on TV its usually one of the following: Terrorists, Middle Eastern, or terrorists. They totally block out the many Asian, Indian, African, and African-American, and European Muslims that make up an entire population of people. Guess what? Hello, we do exist!
We do amazing things in the community. We do creative things. We run businesses, and teach, and model, and have families, just like the next person.
It’s a word that I’ve just began to explore, and it’s a characteristic that I want to develop in every project that I work on. Why? Because the world needs it. We need to see and feel inclusion on all levels of life. Through my art, through my writing, through my stories, and through interviews is what I promote and that’s what I want people to take from the things that I do.
There’s a little Muslim girl out there who is just like me, yearning to see someone who looks like them on an ad campaign or on a commercial. I want to be that one who gives her hope – hope that you can be who you want to be, even if you are Muslim, even if your skin is dark or your hair is kinky. I want to send that message that you can embrace your religion and thrive, unapologetically.
Sisterhood. Identity. Community. Art. And style
The #BlackMuslimGirlMagic photoshoot that my friend and I curated was an amazing experience with an even more amazing team of people of color coming from different creeds. Our makeup artist, Madinah Muhammad, also an African-American Muslim, created the dope looks. Frankie Fultz, an African-American photographer captured the essence of our lady magic. And Jorgie, the owner of Café Con Leche, allowed us to use his space free of charge.
Our aim was to showcase sisterhood, identity, community, art, and style of Black Muslims in the city of Detroit. And I believe from the feedback we’ve been getting that that’s exactly what the viewers have received it as.
Just a little background on Laila and I, we’ve known of each other for some time but weren’t in the same friend group. We were always cordial to each other and gave the Islamic greetings of peace. About five years ago, the universe aligned and we just connected, and it’s been nothing but respect and sister-ship ever since. She encourages me to write and keep moving forward with my creative projects when I threaten to never write again or leave the industry. When she needs encouragement and support in her life, I do the same.
There are so many of us Black Muslims who exist, just trying to make it in a society that refuses to acknowledge or celebrate us. Our thoughts are if the media won’t showcase positivity within the Black Muslim community, then we’ll do it ourselves. On our terms.
This is a lady magic roll call for the segment of women, Muslim or not, who aren’t pushed in the media’s agenda, who are ignored, who are working twice as hard but aren’t given the time of day. I want you to know that I see you and that I appreciate you. You keep doing what you’re doing, while basking in the glory that is you.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what religion or color you are. You don’t have to be involved in a photoshoot to be a part of the #BlackGirlMuslimMagic – you just need to know that we all have a little lady magic to sprinkle on the world.
Let’s keep the conversation going: How do you feel about how Muslimahs of color are portrayed in the media, blogs, magazines, and internet?
And don’t forget to follow Leah on IG: Leah V.