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CaShawn Thompson & Lilly Workneh Are Reminding You That #BlackGirlsAreMagic

Photo: courtesy of Rebel Girls.
In 2013, CaShawn Thompson declared that Black girls are magic. Inspired by negative attention Black women were receiving in the media, the illustrious phrase became one of the most-used hashtags (originally written as #BlackGirlsAreMagic and later shortened to #BlackGirlMagic) amongst Black women, fuelling a moment for us that felt like both rejuvenation and reclamation. 
You’ve heard the Malcolm X quote: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman, and the most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” And in that pivotal moment of Thompson celebrating our resilience, she showed us what that magic meant. We are magic. We always will be. And whether the world wanted to accept it or not, Thompson ensured it was going to hear about it.
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“I’ve believed that Black women and Black girls are magic my whole life,” says Thompson, who was contacted by Rebel Girls in August 2020, along with Lilly Workneh (former editor, Black Voices and Blavity), to help curate and edit 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic—the latest release in the girl-driven edutainment company’s New York Times best-selling series for children, Good Night Stories. “It wasn't like a targeted marketing plan. It was in response to some negative things that had been said about Black women overall. It was a way to say, ‘Hey, look, we are not things; we are magic, wonderful, strong, smart. We are lovable. We are love.”
100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic‘s reach extends far beyond its pages; it’s a 360 campaign fuelled by dedication and intention, and an experience meant to impact the lives of Black girls everywhere. It’s a means to celebrate their existence while increasing the visibility of their accomplishments, past and present. And in collaboration with Rebel Girls, Workneh and Thompson were able to create this book from cover to cover along with other Black women and non-binary people. The book, which features both well-known names and legends in the making from around the world, was born beneath an inclusive and all-encompassing lens, which was especially important for the team. 
“It was important that we define Black girl magic as something that all Black women and girls just are,” says Workneh. “It's not something that you have to achieve or have or acquire or have to reach a certain level or status to exemplify. We're all born with [magic] and we wanted to make sure that the stories in the book showcase that in the best way.”
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Your experience doesn't have to be like the girl next to you. It doesn't matter. You’re still Black Girl Magic.

Cashawn thompson
For each Black woman who receives due recognition for her accomplishments, there are hundreds of others who go unseen. Creating this book was as much of an educational experience for Workneh and Thompson as they hope it will be for their readers. 
“I didn’t know there were Black women wrestlers back in the day, that Black women had a history in the sport of wrestling,” Thompson shares as an example. “I'm hoping that is the same experience that the girls who read this book have, that they learn something they didn't know about and see how many ways Black women have contributed to our society and to our world in a way that they can emulate and be proud of.” 
In August (Black Business Month), the team prepared for the book’s release by reopening Rebel Girls’ Black Girl Magic Shop. They partnered with Black women-owned businesses to offer a limited collection of products from pins to pens to T-shirts, supporting the economy and uplifting Black-owned businesses in the process. And on September 18, they kicked off a book tour across L.A., New York, Atlanta and DC, speaking at multiple Black-owned bookstores. 
“That was also really intentional,” says Workneh. Rebel Girls will keep the celebration going next month during International Day of the Girl (October 10) with the Rebel Girls Fest, a special livestream event featuring Lovie Simone and Oprah Winfrey, among many others.
Thompson and Workneh’s biggest hope is for Black girls who have long felt excluded to open their book and engage during these events and see themselves represented. 
“We hope that there will be girls who sometimes feel like they're left out of what is considered traditional Black womanhood who will open the book and see themselves—girls of different sexualities, different abilities, darker skinned [girls with] loose curls or lighter skinned girls with tighter curls, masculine girls, trans girls—always understanding that your journey doesn't have to have to look like the girl next to you,” says Thompson. “Your experience doesn't have to be like the girl next to you. It doesn't matter. You’re still Black Girl Magic.”

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