Why you should care

It’s Black History Month, so it’s time for you to hear the stories and voices of women of color.

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

“Black girl magic” is a phrase that has been popularized this decade, but Black women, as OZY contributor Constance White points out, aren’t doing anything different than they’ve done before. They’re juggling family life and work, demanding equal pay and pushing back against both racism and sexism. From Ida B. Wells to Serena Williams (pictured), Black women have been making huge strides — despite enormous barriers — to catapult themselves to the top of fields ranging from entertainment to politics.

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Serena Williams celebrates victory at Wimbledon.

Source Getty Images

In honor of Black History Month, check out OZY’s series Beyond Black Girl Magic, which takes a look at the Black women you may not have heard of yet but who could soon be industry leaders. We won’t forget the past either — the series also looks back to spectacular Black women in history who battled the odds to make a difference in society.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

More than just a trend. Harlem has long been known as a center for arts and culture in New York City, which went hand in hand with its status as a historically Black neighborhood. But now Harlem Fashion Week, launched by two Black women in 2016, is making the area a newly chic fashion hub as well, with designers and retailers from around the globe taking notice.

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A model walks the runway for Fe Noel fashion show, a part of Harlem’s Fashion Row during New York Fashion Week at La Marina Restaurant Bar Beach Lounge

Source Getty Images

Time to binge. Web series Barely Adults, which focuses on a Black woman and her Latina best friend navigating New York City, could become the next Broad City. That’s largely down to the talents of writer-producer-director Christine Sanders, who based her series on personal experiences.

Don’t forget the foremothers. Barbara Jordan became the first African-American Congresswoman from the Deep South in 1973. She gave a still-famous speech calling for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon — while inspiring little girls who would become the next generation of politicians. Even further back we find a real firestarter in Lumina Sophie dite Surprise, a revolutionary leader in French-controlled Martinique who, despite being pregnant, organized a movement against those who would oppress the island’s Black population in 1870.

Turn of phrase. While “Black girl magic” has become a catch phrase, some women argue that it’s not doing them any favors. The problem is twofold: First, it pushes a “magical” stereotype that negates Black women’s struggles, and second, it could be seen as reducing Oscar winners and political powerhouses to mere “girls,” rather than the strong women they are.

WHAT TO READ

Who Gets to Own Black Girl Magic? by Clover Hope at Jezebel

“As ‘Black girl magic’ has evolved into a popular movement, one recurring argument is that no one person should be able to ‘own’ such a huge cultural phrase.”

Here’s My Problem With Black Girl Magic, by Linda Chavers in Elle Magazine

“Saying we’re superhuman is just as bad as saying we’re animals, because it implies that we are organically different, that we don’t feel just as much as any other human being. Black girls and women are humans. That’s all we are.”

WHAT TO WATCH

Black Girl Magic Series, Episode 1

“I think that’s a beautiful thing, to be unapologetic and a Black woman.”

Watch at Essence on YouTube:

The Magic in Empowering Black Girls

“It is very difficult as Black girls for us to continue to give back to this country and give back to society if we are coming from a cup that is depleted, rejected and underprotected.”

Watch at Tedx on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Roll ’em. This week, the Sundance Film Festival awarded its grand jury prize to a Black female director for the first time in its 35-year history. Chinonye Chukwu, who’s only the 10th woman to win the prize considered the festival’s most prestigious, won for her film Clemency, which follows a Black woman tasked with executing prisoners on death row.

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