During the nearly eight years that I served as the Chair of UNC Charlotte’s English Department, I got to know the other department chairs since we attended so many meetings together. That is how I got to know Julia Jordan-Zachery, the current chair of the Department of Africana Studies. She came to Charlotte in 2018 after serving as the Director of Black Studies Program at Providence College for ten years. I remember when I first met Julia, we talked about her daughter and the experience of raising children in Charlotte.
Since then Julia has published a new book titled Black Girl Magic Beyond the Hashtag. I recently contacted Julia about this book, and she informed me that the book is tied to conversations she had with her daughter. Intrigued, I asked her if she could send me more information about the book. Here is what she sent to me:
Black Girl Magic Beyond the Hashtag is a work that was birthed as a result of conversations with my daughter. She pushed me to rethink my understandings of Black women’s activism and processes of self-articulation. A bit of this is captured in the final chapter which is a conversation we had on #BlackGirlMagic. It’s important to understand the wellspring of this work as it speaks to the core of what this book is about—Black women in relation. Black Girl Magic Beyond the Hashtag is about Black women in relation to structures, to each other, and themselves. In the book we analyze how Black femmes, girls and women do the work, the real hard work, of making themselves real in a society that often makes them invisible.
We argue that the work of making themselves real is captured in four elements: 1. Community Building; 2. Challenging dehumanizing representations vis-à-vis self-representation; 3. Engaging in a project of visibility; 4. Restoring what is sometimes violently taken. These four elements afford Black femmes, girls, and women the opportunity to engage in a practice, invoking #BlackGirlMagic, to make whole from fragments (that result from race-gender oppressive structures), exist in a space that is neither sacred nor secular, and deploy speculative freedom. Black Girl Magic becomes a rallying cry that cuts across age and location.
As we experience COVID-19, anti-Blackness and an economic down turn, we see elements of the essence of Black Girl Magic in the streets of Charlotte. The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor alongside the gun violence in Charlotte gives us an opportunity to see how Black women do the work of making themselves real. I think of two organizations that embody the basic premise of the work—Sanctuary in the City and Mothers of Murdered Offspring. The mission of Sanctuary in the City reads, “Sanctuary in the City is a black led, woman led organization founded with the awareness of the need for accessible, safe, and affirming healing spaces for Black Indigenous people of color”. Mothers of Murdered Offspring was co-founded by, Dee Sumpter in 1983 after the murder of her daughter. These two organizations are doing the work that we describe in Black Girl Magic Beyond the Hashtag. They embody the four elements that we describe by articulating a positionality for Black women to enter into when the world seeks to erase them.
For readers who are interested in learning more about Black Girl Magic Beyond the Hashtag, the publisher (University of Arizona Press) has additional information on its website: https://uapress.arizona.edu/book/black-girl-magic-beyond-the-hashtag
When I asked Julia if she could send me a statement about her book, I was not sure she would be able to take the time to write something for me. As a former department chair, I know that Julia is swamped with the many challenges of running a department during these difficult times. Needless to say, I am grateful that she took the time out of her busy schedule to share her reflections on Black Girl Magic with Storied Charlotte.