A couple of days ago, I was approached by a handful of people on Twitter about the Black Girls are Magic name and its association with another person, @thepbg , on Twitter as a hashtag movement (#blackgirlmagic) and through a line of t-shirts. For that reason, in the past 24 hours, my Twitter mentions have been in shambles by those that believe that I should change the name of the magazine.
I don’t remember the first time I heard Black Girls are Magic, but I do know that it has been floating in the ether for a while. My cursory Google search of the phrase Black Girls are Magic produced a handful of T-shirt sites (1) (2) , Even popular Black website Blavity, the site for Black Millennials, sells Black Girls are Magic T-shirts. There are also countless media references (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) and Tumblr pages celebrating Black female beauty and style. So, it’s very easy to see how someone could walk away from the search thinking, ALL CLEAR this is a communal phrase. So, after searching, I then looked up the URL and it wasn’t owned currently or in the past by anyone and was available for purchase. So, I purchased the URL and began doing the groundwork for a venture that I feel is needed and desired by many.
Some people believe that since I’m on twitter I must have known about this beforehand, but I’m not a denizen of all Twitter circles and honestly had not heard of @thepbg or her use of the phrase in her t-shirts. However, I have been called a liar at best and a bitch at worst for not knowing about “the first person to create the hashtag #blackgirlmagic”. So, inspired by the firestorm, I felt like I needed to obviously do more research because I clearly didn't see a conflict of interest. I found Topsy which lists that the first mention of Black Girls are Magic and/or #blackgirlsaremagic was four years ago in 2011 by Zan Apran and the hastag #blackgirlmagic three years ago in 2012 by Sate Mama. While @thepbg's first use on social media of #blackgirlmagic was in 2013 and the use of the phrase Black Girls are Magic on her t-shirts came a year later in 2014.
This brings up a great conversation on who can really own a hashtag. According to my research hashtags are not IP, nor are they eligible for copyright, they can only be trademarked (and that’s for solely the hashtag, incl. the hashtag symbol, i.e. #FYeahBlackGirls) you would need a separate trademark for any deviations.
I launched the site for the magazine after an outpouring of people online who wanted to learn more about it through my Twitter handle, ahead of the opening of submissions. Therefore, the site was a soft launch and was not 100% complete (my bad for launching early as well, but I was excited). I’ve poured my blood, sweat, and now tears into the magazine, not to mention my own hard earned money.
When someone first told me that they felt that using the name was an attempt to piggyback off of someone else’s work, I stated on Twitter (never again) that I’d be happy to have @thepbg write for the magazine (in a paid capacity, of course). That statement has now been ripped to shreds online. If that came off as flippant or disingenuous, for that I apologize. I sincerely didn’t mean for it to come off in that way. I should have reached out to her sooner, as soon as someone mentioned her name and the hashtag to me three days ago.
In the excitement of starting something new and the demands of life (three young children) along with a holiday weekend, I didn't have the time I thought was deserved of a conversation with her and put it on the back burner until the holiday was over. However, last evening, I came back to a firestorm of Twitter mentions over this issue. I unwisely have tried to argue my side on Twitter. Twitter isn’t the place for that at all. There is only so much you can put in so little space without someone taking it in a way you didn’t intend, which is why I’m addressing it here.
As stated in our Mission Statement: Black Girls are Magic Lit Mag is a literary magazine created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority voices and characters in speculative fiction, especially Black women’s voices. Black Girls are Magic Lit Mag believes that by showcasing stories featuring Black female voices and characters we can create a reflection of ourselves in the literature that we love, in a world where our images are constantly controlled, shaped, and distorted by those outside of our experiences.
My purpose, not to mention my medium (a literary magazine) differs from that of @thepbg’s. I do not want to take over her t-shirt business or divert her customers because our products are vastly different. If you want a t-shirt proclaiming Black Girls are Magic, you would (and should) go to her site and purchase one. If you want to read speculative fiction about Black women, you would (and I hope you still will) go to mine.
Instances of artists being inspired by things they hear isn’t new. In 1929 the book The Blacker the Berry was published. I’ve heard that phrase in different spaces all my life & never knew where it originated, it was just something that Black people repeated like the Gospel. This year Kendrick Lamar put out a song with the same title. There is also The Blacker the Berry Project a choreography and dance project, not to mention many t-shirts and illustrations emblazoned with this phrase. Not to mention, Tupac’s mention of it in his song Keep Ya Head Up.
In the case of something hitting a little closer to home, a hashtag movement, #blacklivesmatter has spawned an online Civil Rights Movement, a Civil Rights organization, and countless shirts emblazoned with the phrase. Yet, I haven’t seen the same type of vitriol spewed towards myself in the last 24 hrs for those who have used Black Lives Matter in their art or commerce. Likewise #carefreeblackgirl, first mentioned in social media by Zeba Blay, but a blog by that name was created by Danielle Hawkins, a 19-year-old student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) great article on The Root about her starting the blog . #carefreeblackgirl has also spawned countless t-shirt options, as well as media mentions (1) (2), (3).
Twitter is stating that Black Girls are Magic is a movement. I believe that as well, the sentiment of the phrase, to me, is about recognizing the beauty and magic in all Black women. Which is what I am attempting to do in the recognition of literature by and about Black women. I never intended to step on anyone’s toes, at all.
I am disappointed in the way this was handled, both by myself, for not reaching out to @thepbg as soon as someone mentioned her to me (three days ago) , as well as by those who felt the need to “call me out” on Twitter. Sadly, after seeing my mentions in shambles I’m definitely not feeling the magic. However, I hope that those who want to see themselves reflected in literary spaces will continue to support my magazine because I want to spread some of that #blackgirlmagic into the reaches of the literary world and give Black women (fictional characters as well as writers) the attention that they deserve.
I end this rather long missive with saying, Thank you to those that have supported me and continue to believe in the vision of an outlet for Black female writers. And for those that believe that this was handled poorly by myself, blame my head and not my heart. However, this will be the last time I address this issue on social media. I have reached out to @thepbg and hope that we can settle this amicably.