The Black Girl Movement Conference: A Space For Us, By Us

Last week members of our team attended the Black Girl Movement (BGM) Conference at Columbia University to connect with and learn from other Black women and girls who are doing dope and amazing things across the country. The three day gathering was designed by a group of Black women scholars, activists, and artists who created a special and inspiring space for us to unpack what it means to be a Black girl or woman at this particular moment. As stated on BGM’s site, the purpose of the conference was to declare that “Black girls will not be left behind during this unprecedented moment where the lives of Black people are being centered within our racial justice movement of the 21st Century.” And our team agrees that attending BGM was a truly special moment to experience.

The conference began Thursday evening with the opening of the Picturing Black Girlhood exhibition. Curated by Scheherazade Tillet, the exhibition featured eighteen image makers, including our own Jamaica Gilmer, who told stories of Black girlhood through a camera lens. The exhibition was held at Raw Space Gallery in Harlem, NY. Scheherazade passionately curated an inviting environment that reminds us all what girlhood feels like. There were double dutch games outside to get the body moving, side walk chalk for girls to create their own artwork, and dance battles among sister friends backed by the dope beats of the talented DJ Beauty and the Beatz. During the exhibition, we had the pleasure of hearing from Jamaica and other featured artists about their journeys as photographers and learning how they create images as activism. This article from Broadly gives a good review of the exhibition.

On the second day of the conference, there were a series of panel discussions led by a diverse group of Black women on varying issues and barriers that Black girls face in the media, public policy, philanthropy, and academic spaces. We heard from cultural producers, community organizers, educators, and policymakers across multi-generations speak candidly about the obstacles and traumas Black girls encounter yet they also acknowledged the powerful movement building to improve the life outcomes of Black girls everywhere.
DBG Workshop Team_Jamaica Gilmer_Khayla Deans_Nandi Reed Bandele_Dosali Reed Bandele_Erin Stephens

The final day of the BGM conference was dedicated to youth led workshops. The workshops were a great opportunity for all of the attendees, women and youth, to directly engage with each other in a smaller setting. TBP’s workshop was led by Nandi Reed-Bandele with the loving support of her mother, Dosali Reed-Bandele. Nandi joined TBP when she was just 9 years old. Now 16 years old, watching her use her voice to create safe space for the girls and women in the room was a sight to behold. Our team cultivated an interactive workshop that helped girls and women celebrate their own voices through the camera and the pen. We used a couple of letters from our #dearblackgirl campaign and asked the young women to create their own responses. The girls and the women in the room gathered around different letters to read and reflect on how the words made them feel. In the end, everyone created images that embodied their sentiments and feelings in response to #dearblackgirl.

Meeting and interacting with the Black girls and women at the BGM conference was a great gift. It was inspiring to see Black girls and women of all different shades, hair, fashion styles, and identities show up and collectively embrace each other. The Black Girl Magic that our team experienced last week was a  perfect reminder of why we are committed to continuing to advocate for Black girls everywhere. The nuances of this commitment can, at times, be daunting. At the beginning of our workshop, Nandi asked the room to repeat the mantra that her grandmother tells her to say whenever she is scared or overwhelmed: “Be brave. Be strong. Pray about everything. And worry about nothing.”

Good people, we are in this to win this.

See you at the next Black Girl Movement conference!

Body Image Translating the DBG  letter they read--LOVE