On ‘Black Girl Feels’


Last week, my Tumblr dashboard threw up a teaser promo for Solange Knowles’ upcoming single, Losing You. I watched the clip (less than a minute long) three times in a row, liking what I heard and saw much more with each viewing. Then I re-read the blurb an earlier poster, Britticisms had written:

Preview for the new Solange song is shot in an installation by Mickalene Thomas? All of my black girl feels… I’m really excited to see Solange’s new direction as I’ve been following what appears to be a charmed life as the most recognizable “blipster” in pop culture. I use that term lovingly, as I appreciate Solange’s desire to look a little weird, to dress a litte [sic]strangely, to be open to presenting herself as different than what would be expected of her. She experiments with hair styles, with pattern, with sounds, never quite adopting one completely, but always challenging the idea that one must confine themselves to one idea of self and identity. But also, Mickalene Thomas! If ever there was an occasion to surround oneself with color and beauty!

Here’s the video:

‘Black girl feels’ – what a phrase! It is precisely accurate. I read it more as two words: ‘Blackgirl feels’. My ‘feels’ – a beautiful Internet kinda nonsense-word – when dealing with blackgirls. I love blackgirls. I am one, and yes, I love myself; how could I not? In a world that is all to eager to tell me it does not much like me and other blackgirls, it is a form of self-care, self-love, and at the risk of sounding a tad dramatic, a minor revolutionary act. Of all the things I’ve wanted to change about myself (it’s a short list, but it exists), the state of being a blackgirl was not one. Amen? Amen.

I’ve tried to figure out who my first popular culture blackgirl crush was, and must alight, somewhat inevitably, at the Lisa Bonet bus stop. Ah, Bonet’s Burden: Lisa was the vessel so many blackgirls of a certain vintage put all their feels into. You want to know how formative my Denise/blackgirl-love was? I first watched The Cosby Show more than two decades ago, and here I am in 2012, still in thrall – Lisa as Denise Huxtable is partly responsible for the nose ring I am contemplating as a 30th birthday present to myself. That’s blackgirl love.

I love blackgirls in all our iterations, but I hold a reserve of special affection for black hipsters (aka the inelegant portmanteau ‘blipsters’) and black bohos (‘bloho’s?). They were rocking their natural hair before YouTube and the Great Transitioning™ of 2005. They were posing, pigeon-toed and pouting, long before Tumblr. They were weirdo free spirits in strange clothes when it was not convenient. We owe them – from Maya Angelou (with her amazing life) to Hilary and Ashley Banks (in their preppy magnificence) to Aaliyah (with her swoop bang) to Dionne Davenport (with her braids and pop sox in Clueless) to J of Awkward Black Girl (dancing… awkwardly at a Childish Gambino concert with her boo) to Neneh ‘Raw Like Sushi‘ Cherry (and her buffalo stance) to the girls on your street who were just doing their thing. They were cool, they were visible, they were real. These blackgirls were prepared to step out of the often constrictive space that had been allocated to them and just be. I have all the feels for them.

Anyway, let me go put my hair into Bantu knots and and express my blackgirl feels through the art of  DJing at a local bar or something. Get a dose of your feels here with AlunaGeorge:

ETA, October 2, 2012: Solange released the full-length video earlier today. It’s so beautiful, I may cry. Here it is:

5 responses

  1. Lisa Bonet, Phylicia Rashād, Cree Summer, Diana Ross, Debbie Allen (as Lydia Grant) evoke all sorts of “feels” in me :-). All silently inspiring my childish self to just be. Encouraging me, as sister Aluna sings, not to take things as they come if they bring me down. *raises clenched fist, in salute *

  2. Really love this, I actually snorted when I read ‘blohos’ Lmao!
    Love ourselves yes, no-one else will! And I love that you have highlighted that there are multiple faces to being a blackgirl (I still distinctly remember being wowed by Ms Cherry when I first saw her perform Buffalo Stance on TOTP, there had been no-one else like her to that point!)
    With this post you could show that Lena Dunham a thing or two, hmph

  3. I saw the Solange clip a couple of days ago and I was thisclose to messaging you about it. She’s had my heart since the Freemason’s mix of I Decided.

    Ashley Banks was/is so awesome… Fresh Prince holds up as such a great show about excellent family relationships.

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