#ForBlackGirlsOnly Picnic 2015

Yesterday was the first #ForBlackGirlsOnly Picnic hosted by Black Love Sessions at Trenchtown, Observatory. For weeks, Sivu has been promoting the event on social media, letting people know that this opportunity was not to be missed.
The event was organised in response to the lack of spaces in Cape Town where young black women from different backgrounds can come together to talk, learn and grow.

#ForBlackGirlsOnly is explicit in its purpose: this is a space for black girls to be themselves in an uncensored and unapologetic way. There is no room for detractors who want to say "but what about x-type of girls?"
No. This is our time. 

It is no coincidence that I felt the best music to get ready to was by Rihanna and Janelle Monae, two of the foremost examples of Black Girl Magic. It was a foreshadowing of the type of dynamism I would experience at the Picnic. As guests started to file in, I noticed this electric air of anticipation. Seeing all the women gathering with purpose was quite exciting.

Tiffany Mugo, founder of HOLAAfrica!, chaired the panel of speakers. Mase, Lihle and Gotatso were the powerful "slashies" (academics/feminists/activists) who dropped some serious wisdom on intersectionality, black feminism, black female sexuality and other things related to smashing the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. I was glad I brought my notebook because they gave me a lot to think about.

Some of the women took the opportunity to respond to the panelists' statements, and conversation got quite heated. It became obvious that there is a lot that black women want to say, but they don't have many like-minded people they can share it with. Yesterday, we were all in one place, willing to hear each other out. 

Most salient to me was the issue of the black patriarch. Black men often stand in the way of black feminism (if the discussions on my social media feeds are anything to go by), and some of the women present were not sure what to do with this. 
Lihle suggested that the notion of the black woman as an instrument that is perpetually in service of the black man needs to be critiqued (and ultimately done away with).

A commenter highlighted her experience of having to "switch off" her consciousness at home. When one is away from the city and the university that reinforce one's feminist beliefs, there is a sense of "over there" and "back here". You are gender non-conforming and an advocate of women's social, political and economic equality in the former space, but not in the latter. In a sense, young black feminists live a "double life".

In response, Lihle put it forward that there should be a way for the transgressive black woman to feel safe in the home space. As black women, we should be able to express our sentiments around marriage, sexuality and gender roles and expectations with the people closest to us (i.e. the family) without being labelled as outsiders.

I agree wholeheartedly. If a person cannot express their personality fully when they are at home, then what base will they have to operate from in the world? But I also don't know how I would begin that process...

What I learned at #ForBlackGirlsOnly is that I still have a lot to learn. This life will be a constant process of self-determination. Thanks to spaces and conversations like this one (which, prior to Sivu's event, were mainly online), young black girls can access the knowledge and resources needed to create their best selves.


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