The Black Girl Magic social movement began in 2013. Founder CaShawn Thompson gave birth to a concept that gave millions of women and girls around the world ‘permission’ to express their blackness freely and confidently. We started to celebrate our power, beauty and strength louder and the world listened.
Fast forward to 2020 and #BlackGirlMagic continues to trend on social media platforms and marketing campaigns worldwide, with celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Kelly Rowland and Beyonce promoting black female greatness consistently in the mainstream media.
With all of this positive endorsement and (slightly) increasing acceptance of our melanin, it is little wonder black Queens, young and old, are feeling empowered and magical right now… but what about our Kings?
It is a sad statistic that, according to Mind UK, young black boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with severe mental health problems and struggle with self-esteem. It is such a big problem that in March 2019, they launched a specific Young Black Men programme to support black males aged 11 to 30. Even more recently, Idris Elba released a song addressing mental health in the black male community. This suggests that we need to do more to empower and uplift black boys too. We need to remove the stigma of mental health problems, break down cultural barriers and highlight, with the goal of completely stopping, systemic discrimination in order to give these boys the support they need. These are all huge steps that will take years to fully address but there are things we can do individually to make a difference in the same way #BlackGirlMagic did.
We see you, we celebrate you
In 2017 I released my first set of greeting cards. They all featured black women and I must admit that it took almost a year for me to produce cards that featured male portraits. Thinking back, I understand why I did this; my largest customer base was women and they tend to buy and receive more cards than men, but I can now see that leaving men and boys out during my mission to empower the BAME community could have made them feel forgotten or unseen…but I promise…I see you!
Since the growth of my business (and seeing my brother grow into a young man), I’ve made a conscious effort to produce more products that feature black males. These include Father’s Day cards, magnets and birthdays cards with illustrations of men and boys of different ages and skin tones. It was also important to me to include some portraits of these men smiling because, as the #BlackBoyJoy movement highlighted, we rarely see black boys happy or expressing a jovial spirit in mainstream media.
A step in the right direction
After doing some research, it was great to find that there are many organisations and charities with specific goals of empowering black men and boys. Groups such as 100 Black Men of London, the Up My Street project and 56 Black Men are doing amazing work with this section of the community and I know they will make a huge difference to many lives.
I am also starting to see black boys represented in more areas such as advertising, theatre and literature which is great to see and I am personally proud to have recently illustrated a book featuring black male characters only. Dylan’s Dilemma by Richmond Osei-Akoto is a beautiful story of a father and son’s relationship, expressing love, openness and honesty, so it was a pleasure to be involved in this project showing black males in this way.
At the end of the day, our young princes will grow into Kings and we need to nurture them in the same way we do our Queens. We can’t expect them to innately value and empower themselves (the stats say it’s not working), so let’s keep celebrating them and talking to them with the same positive energy we do with our girls.
So to my friends, my brother and all of my male family members; I see you, I celebrate you, I support you and I see your MAGIC!
Written by Leanne Armstrong