MLK event celebrates Black Girl Magic
Through a series of spoken word, poetry, and dance performances, as well as speeches by student scholars and visiting guest performers, the University’s 12th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial celebrated “Black Girl Magic” and brought to attention Black women identity and the historical leadership of Black women revolutionaries last Monday.
“This short civil rights history lesson does not begin or end with Martin. For once, I want you to say her name. I want you to recognize her accomplishments,” said student speaker Aja Antoine ’17. Antoine recognized the deeds of local figure Ruth M. Batson, among those of other Black female leaders, whose stories have too often been cast into the shadow of their Black men revolutionary counterparts'.
“She was resilient before Boston was strong,” Antoine said of Batson. “She was to the Boston Busing Crisis of the 1970s as Ida B. Wells is to lynching in the U.S. South and Angela Davis is to prison abolition. As Alicia [Garza], Opal [Tometi], and Patrisse [Cullors] are to Black Lives Matter. … An unapologetically Black female leader, her name is Ruth Batson, and I want you to say it, loudly, proudly and with conviction,” said Antoine.
The evening’s keynote speech featured University alumna and former Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16. In her remarks, Macklin addressed the need to pay respect toward not only Black women leaders but the Black women of local and University communities.
“We need to normalize thanking and providing resources to the Black women who thanklessly take the largest burdens,” said Macklin, “And of course we can’t forget the aunties, the cousins, the mamas, the grandmas who have sacrificed as Black women in order to see a better world for their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren and generations to come.”
“We will never understand what work they are doing that is going unmarked — the hours, the years that these women are putting in uplifting every aspect of Black men, other Black women, and girls, and the entire world,” said Macklin.
Macklin also addressed the need for a space for discussion about mental health stigmas, especially for the Black community.
She spoke about wanting to present the “superhuman” version of Black womanhood in her role as Student Union president last year, a role that often involved “overcoats, heels, purses, running from place to place,” she said.
However, she told the audience, “I didn’t have it together. Every day was an attempt not to collapse. … I realized I was becoming inaccessible to other Black women who were trying to follow in my footsteps. … I was out here being hypervisible and only showing the most polished version of myself.”
Concluding her remarks, Macklin credited “Black Girl Magic” with helping her heal. “This 'Black Girl Magic' that we have created has made me love my skin again. … These Black women were the sisters I’ve never had, and they continue to be, no matter their age, no matter their discipline. Black women have created a community that facilitates a type of loyalty that is imperiled. … So let us make sure that we understand the impact that Black women have had on our lives, whether we know those impacts or not.”
Between speeches recalling the historical deeds of great Black women, performances also shared stories of Black female identity. Stacy Finley ’15 performed the spokenword “Natural Hair Girl” and LaQuasia Cherry ’17 and Maggie Ziegel ’18 performed “The Natural Hair Vocabulary.”
Vanessa Alamo ’17 danced original choreography in unison with Dean of Students Jamele Adams’ spokenword “Black Girl Magic.”
The evening also featured orations and performances by vocalist Megan Boateng ’17, Marcelo Brociner ’18, Platinum Step, TOXIC, violinist Priya DeBerry ’17, Sean Fielder of Boston Tap Company and world poetry slam champion Porsha Olayiwola.
LaShawn Simmons ’18 personified Black activist Assata Shakur, reciting her speech “To My People,” and Kofi Hodge ’15 recited a speech as King himself to end the evening.
The memorial is hosted annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and was sponsored by the Men of Color Alliance and the Dean of Students Office.