Black Girl Magic encourages and supports the development of women of color within the campus community and the Meadville community. The organization is a part of the Culture Identity and Leadership Coalition, which is guided by principles for development and growth. BGM is one of the 18 CILC organizations advised by the Director of Inclusion Diversity Equity Access and Social Justice Center Angelica Perez-Johnston.
“CommUNITY’…. unity among our community,” the CILC website reads. “That is the driving force of (CILC). Comprised of over twelve of our diverse student organizations of under-represented student populations, CILC provides space for organizations to collaborate, share experiences and maintain and develop (a) sense of unity within the diverse student community.”
The organization meets on Zoom to discuss potential events, organizational affairs and mentorship for members. The organization is open to anyone who is interested in attending the meetings, regardless of race or gender.
“BGM is inclusive,” President Benedicte Musimisa, ’21, said. “For example, boys can come to our meetings, not just girls. You also do not have to be Black to attend. We do not discriminate against anyone — our club is an inclusive space.”
The organization is intended to provide its members with a space to express themselves and their feelings while educating fellow members and establishing a community, Musimisa said. BGM does focus on women’s empowerment — in particular Black women — but encourages anyone that is interested to attend, she added.
“(BGM) just wants to have a place where people can come to learn about others,” Musimisa said. “Our meetings are spaces (for members) to talk about anything … We have spoken about everything —mental health, culture (and) identity.”
BGM’s meetings will all be virtual this semester, but Musimisa said she is confident that the members will still have a positive experience with the club.
“It helped me realize that my voice is important and that my voice does matter,” Rosslin Watson, ’22, said. “(BGM) helped me find more confidence within my voice.”
Watson was on the executive board serving as historian during her first year and co-president during her sophomore year and the start of her junior year. She recalled holding herself back, especially in the classroom, out of fear of stereotypes regarding her identities before joining BGM.
“(Confidence in myself) was something that I did not really know until I joined because I was not too sure of myself being a Black woman,” Watson said. “I can be a Black woman unapologetically. I do not have to change myself because of what other people’s stereotypes of me (as a Black woman) already are — that was very helpful for me (to learn). I did not realize how much that (concern) held me back, especially within classroom settings.”
BGM typically holds events throughout the semester that provide members with the opportunity to foster a sense of community. These events have included discussions about identities, culture and microaggressions. BGM’s objective is to provide a space for members to discuss their thoughts, experiences and feelings with people who want to listen and learn.
“We try to do things that are fun, but we have those difficult conversations as well (in BGM),” Watson said. “We always try to provide a space where if you need to come and get something off your chest like I know what you are going through and the other women of color know what you are going through. Also, other members who are not women or are not students of color can listen and sympathize with what you are going through. This is something that I believe BGM does really well.”
Watson commented about the effect that being a member of BGM has on her and the realizations that the members helped her discover as a first-year student.
“(BGM) showed me that I should not hold myself back,” Watson said. “It was eye-opening to me that if I wanted to get something done, the color of my skin should not hold me back or me being a woman should not hold me back.”
Watson recalled being a first-year student without a support network during her first semester.
“I did not realize that I put myself in a box, especially starting out (as a first year) at Allegheny,” Watson said. “I put myself in a little box and I stayed in the box.”
Throughout the semester, members host Sister Sunday events that enable students to come together as a community to play board games, engage in self care practices and participate in paint and sip sessions. Due to COVID-19, Sister Sundays will not be held this semester, Musimisa announced.
Aside from member bonding events, BGM collaborates with other student organizations on campus throughout the semester.
During last semester’s Black History Month the diversity organizations collaborated to celebrate and raise awareness for individuals of color on campus. BGM collaborated with Association of Caribbean Students, Men of Color Advancement Association and Advancement of Black Culture to host the ABC Awards ceremony on Feb. 28 to honor students who have shown Black excellence and pride in their heritage. BGM, MOCAA, ABC,and ACS hosted the annual Ebony Ball later that evening on Feb. 28. This event marked the 50th anniversary of Allegheny’s ABC organization.
Black History Month featured images of students from Flexin’ my Complexion, an event hosted by BGM, ABC and MOCAA from Nov. 23 to Nov. 24 last year, to showcase the beauty of students of color. These images were posted throughout the Campus Center during February and were open to the public.
The organizations also brought speakers to campus to discuss their struggles, experiences, and excellence as individuals of color. On Feb. 14, BGM hosted an event with ABC that brought Joan ‘Lyric’ Leslie to campus to discuss her strive for female empowerment through poetry, storytelling, and comedy.
On Mar. 5, BGM and MOCCA hosted a movie night featuring “Harriet” in Quigley Hall. On Mar. 13, BGM and Gay Straight Alliance held a collaborative event that brought Kai Davis to campus to discuss her experiences as a member of the LGBTQIA + community. Reggae Fest was held Mar. 6 in Schultz Banquet Hall from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m.. The event was a collaborative effort between BGM, ACS, Latinas on the Rise, Union Latinx and the Allegheny Student Government that featured music and cuisine from the Caribbean palate.
Collaboration between organizations for events has increased in recent years, but the ability to host events has been limited due to COVID-19 guidelines, Musimisa said. BGM did collaborate with ABC and Queer People of Color to host a discussion about any concerns that people may have on Zoom.
“We created a space where we could address (President Hilary) Link’s post that was on Instagram and we asked people how they felt,” Watson said. “This was basically just a check-in to see how everyone was feeling.”
Besides virtual discussions, BGM hosted a Zumba event in the David V. Wise Center on Oct. 2. The dance class was choreographed by BGM’s Co-Event Coordinator Daline Saintelus, ’21. The event was physically distanced on the blue courts.
On Sept. 4, the organization hosted Scrunchies & Stickers, which served as a meet and greet with the new executive board. The event was hosted in the Campus Center and attendees received scrunchies and stickers.
“Events will still happen, but we have not planned any personal events because they are too interactive and it would not be safe,” Musimisa said. “We will continue to have meetings and discussions on different topics, but some events we just cannot do this semester or they have to be different.”