Black Girl Brilliance is the Norm Wednesday 24 October, 2012

Jess Final Cover Image

I’ve made a conscious choice to consume media from outlets that nourish, validate and inspire me to think, dream and do. And because of that I have a constant news feed of black girl luminaries who are making history in print, scholarship, film, theatre; some of whom I know personally or am a few degrees […]

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I’ve made a conscious choice to consume media from outlets that nourish, validate and inspire me to think, dream and do. And because of that I have a constant news feed of black girl luminaries who are making history in print, scholarship, film, theatre; some of whom I know personally or am a few degrees away from. However, when there is a dominant (mainstream) narrative that black girl brilliance is not the norm, our success becomes like Unicorn watching — and I want my cultural producer Sisteren to take heed.

As producers, there are economic benefits to “entertaining the otherness”, teasing out the evocative or perceived Unicorn. Being the first or one of few black woman to lead, earn or win *fill in the blank* is a sacred sorority all its own with  environmental pressures from all sides – investors expecting returns, the danger of one story, the one hit wonder blues, etc.

I believe that when we choose to entertain the Unicorn watchers there is a taught, thin veil between being other and operating from a place of scarcity… that my black girl luminosity is not the norm, that it will expire soon so you must, with most urgency hurry up and buy my book/watch my film/come see my play/buy my art/tell your friends, please, please! This tension is real. Intuitively, we know luminous work transcends gimmick, or strategy cloaked in a feeling of scarcity. Ain’t nothing small or limiting about beautiful, powerful art. We know this. My mama said, “The truth don’t need no support”. But Mama, will the truth fill the seats? See, the tension is real.

I also believe that spaces where the black feminine imagination is othered are like sandcastles, pretty spectacular for a moment in time; Temporary. We can’t store our brilliance in them and hope that it is cultivated over time. For the watchers, it’s on to the next Unicorn.

How do we gracefully dance along the tension of that veil? We don’t have to. We can opt out. Understand that supporting black women artists is a political act. When we create space for black girl brilliance to be the norm we change the narrative and we build economic engines by us that sustain us.

And in those moments when we are othered in arts spaces: shine. Shine so bright that you can’t help but gush about your muses, mentors, fellow travelers and those baby Unicorns (they may be in the crowd). In that moment, you have the power and platform to affirm that we are indeed a large, beautiful tribe. Acknowledge that there is more than one story and that the dominant narrative that would suggest black girl brilliance is rare because mainstream platforms only showcase a select few is problematic.

Live Unchained’s Lead Editress, Kathryn, has a wonderful Yoruba Proverb in her email signature that often puts me at ease: “The sky is full enough for all birds to fly without colliding.” Now, how true is that? :)

Can’t wait to cheer you on!

Written by Jess Solomon

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One Comment

  • great writing. so glad I stumbled into you, not even really sure what cyber turn on my morning amble brought me to your corner. reading the thoughts above opens up points of light in my mind giving me glimpses of a bright future.

    our perspective has to be cosmic/astral for that is where we ourselves start.

    thanks again


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