Women of color bring magic to campus

by Andrew Sosanya | 2/8/17 2:15am

During her sophomore year, Tsion Abera ’17 grew frustrated by the lack of hair care for black women around campus. She resorted to watching YouTube videos on how to style and take care of her hair in such dry weather. She, along with her “mentee” Alex Adams ’18, started using her dorm to provide a space with self-care resources for black women. Eventually, the room started filling up, and Abera’s wallet started to suffer — so she founded Black Girls Are Magic, an organization that recognizes and caters to the needs of black women in the Dartmouth community.

Abera says that BGAM is a community-bonding organization providing black women from all over campus a space to connect. Once Abera started doing homemade protein hair treatments, she recognized that there was a demand for spaces where you could get your hair done and simultaneously ask the real questions — and get genuine answers — were highly desired. Abera said that her room would be full of people laughing and socializing with each other.

“I think we’re really just out here trying to support one another, creating safe and comfortable spaces for black women,” Abera said.

From meeting new people on campus to understanding the social climate at Dartmouth, meetings provide a much-needed forum for black women.

BGAM became an official organization recognized by the College in 2014. Ten women sit on the executive board and an average of 30 people come to the regularly scheduled events, while the larger events host around 70 people.

Abera’s favorite BGAM event is the annual spring retreat. It’s a full day of people coming together and sharing space in a healthy and safe way. They rent a cabin, go canoeing, have picnics and watch movies. The retreat is oriented to self-care because life on campus can sometimes be overwhelming. All women of color are invited and encouraged to attend.

BGAM has been very active this term, offering a financial literacy workshop open to the public and a self-defense class which counts for a P.E. credit. Next term, BGAM will be hosting another retreat. This fall, they are planning to host an inter-Ivy conference for black women and create a mentoring program. This sibling mentoring program, tentatively dubbed “Sista Sista,” will match black undergraduates with black alumni to create lasting bonds.

There’s a saying that the magic always comes from the inside — and that’s what BGAM is about.

“Being beautiful, being smart, being talented — black girls are all that and above,” Adams said.

BGAM’s favorite verb is C.A.R.E: Compassion, Affirmation, Responsibility and Endurance. She says that the resilience and empathy that black women share with one another is essential.

“I just feel very affirmed and feel that I’m healing in black women spaces,” Abera said. “That is the power of black girl magic.”

Selome Ejigu ’17 was one of the women who frequented Abera’s room during the budding phases of BGAM. She says that black women are “just real people, despite all the obstacles that come with being, in its own context, a black woman at Dartmouth.”

BGAM provides a space for a community that’s often pushed aside or forgotten in a lot of discussions and its existence has helped black women across campus feel represented.

“[We think] about what it means to be a woman and to be black — and all the things that come with it,” Ejigu said about one of BGAM’s goals.

Samantha West ’20 joined the group last term and has been a dedicated member since. She feels that the group has supported her and helped mold her identity at Dartmouth.

“Especially when your identity is often questioned or devalued, to have that space where you can empower each other and appreciate who you are and where you come from is really cool,” West said. “I am coming into my own as a woman of color at Dartmouth.”