Magical Black Girl Syndrome

What do Black girls and the widely popular anime genre magical girls have in common?

[Collage of Sailor Senshi by artist Odera Igbokwe ]

“#Black Girl Magic”

It’s the popular hashtag we’ve seen in the last few years plastered everywhere from social media accounts to various memorabilia. Coined by Cashawn Thompson in 2013 to highlight the beauty and strengths of black women/girls /femme. In a world that is plagued by anti-blackness, this term has inspired a generation reminiscent of the Black Power Movements of yesteryear. Black girl magic essentially works in accepting all types of black femininity. Black girl magic could be personified by kinky-type hair, fat and dark-skinned black girls, as well as lighter, slim and freckled-faced black girls. Black girl magic is definitely a celebration of the things that make us great!

In a world that sees nothing of black femme people; the ardent passion of the #BlackGirlMagic tag is refreshing.

So what are magical girls?

[ One of the most recognized transformations, Sailor Moon]

Magical girls (魔法少女 mahō shōjo?, also known as Mahou shoujo or majokko) is a subgenre of Japanese fantasy anime and manga which feature girls who use magic. A staple trope of this genre is average girls who, by unforeseen circumstances, become bearers of great power and responsibility. Whether in manga or anime, the protagonists wield magical objects or possess powers that both assist and complicate their lives. The most famous example of this genre is Pretty Senshi Soldier Sailor Moon. What soon became a pop-culture icon, Serena/Usagi Tsukino, the bright eyed blonde finds herself in precarious situations alongside her trope of school girls who fight their enemies by moonlight. Sailor Moon may be the most popular in Western media, however, there are many of magical girl shows that folks can invest in. What I recommed is: Tokyo mew Mew, Magical knight Rayearth, Card Captor Sakura, Full moon o sagashite. Magical girls have often captured the hearts of their audience members through creating life long fan bases.

Magical girls, often ordinary, become extraordinary by chance, who then entitle themselves as either princesses, warriors, or magical witches.

[ Cardcaptor Sakura]

So what does #BlackGirlMagic and Magical Girls have in common?

Black girls are taught since the day they’re born that they are inferior. Condescending behaviour based on our features and skin is evident in the media, the community and even the schoolyards. Little black girls are made to be the burden and mules of our collective society. In America the stories of IPV, police brutality and poverty grip the ankles of our girls. Yet the closed door policies in our churches, schools and governing bodies do nothing to stunt the progression black female empowerment.

Even with political movements of contemporary times and the past, the femme black leaders are often erased or have their narratives reduced. Worldwide black girls are often born into harsh realities: child marriages, female genital mutilation, and sex trafficking.

With all that at stake, it is our duty as older black girls/women/femmes to raise awareness of this plight. We must the lift the voices of our youth. As a senior in college, I can attest to a number of black women who “poured” into me. The black women in my life either spiritual relatives, family members or someone who I crossed paths with. Whether be the fellow writer or an employer, they have all stressed the importance of accepting me as I am. Yet they always encouraged me to be the best version of myself I needed to be.

[ Black Girl Magic in action screenshot from Beyonce’s Lemonade]

While black girls in so many ways seem like the world has stacked their cards against them, I am a forever optimistic and that alone does not change reality. Black girls are not bestowed magical powers. While the world expects us to be more wonderwoman than sailor scout. Black girls have to combat misogynoir, with pristine precision like wing tipped eyeliner of their favorite bloggers. Dark-skinned black girls have had their pain broadcasted due to colorist lens of the camera and the unnecessary remarks of celebrities. I don’t think there’s a golden lasso large enough to the wrangle all the culprits.

Growing up, I didn’t have much animated black girl representation. Even now as a grown up blerd (black nerd) , there are not many faces like mine in the video games I consumed or the anime I watched. I’ve always wondered why couldn’t there be a dark-skinned Sakura Kinomoto. Why couldn’t the girls from Sailor Moon have afro puffs like me? Though they didn’t look like me, I cannot ignore the commonalities we shared; girls looking for more than what the world had to offer them.

[ Art by Illumistrations]

I often look to my favorite heroines in between the pages of mangas and I see girls who have asserted themselves and didn’t back down to their unruly playground bully or dangerous otherworldly monster. These are the types of girls who fell in love and had many friends.The rhythm of loyalty that magical girls have to mimic the bonds that black femmes form. In a world that tries to wipe away their voices, black girl magic is summoned by our celebrities, each other and to ourselves. We craft odes to our hair, features and overall autonomy. We make it happen in the boardroom, in the streets and on both sides of the camera. So we don’t adorn ourselves with sailor ties, magical trinkets or talking pets… but that doesn’t make us less magical.

Author: Brittney Maddox

Editor: Ammaarah Mookadam

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Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!

You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.

From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.

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