BY KRISTINA RAMCHARRAN
Six young and brilliant minds from the Greater Toronto Area created a magazine of their own work, but not just any magazine. Black Girls Magazine created by a group of preteen girls, features stories on current issues black girls face while growing up with topics ranging from puberty to art.
The idea of the magazine came after the mother of 9-year-old Mbabazi, pitched the idea after noticing her daughter’s interest in writing and illustration. “I thought it would be fun to create something. My mom called their parents and talked to them and most of them thought it was a good idea so they all met at my house,” says Mbabazi, who wants to become a pediatrician in the future.
Although the rest of the girls also have big dreams, they enjoy writing for the magazine as it gives them a platform to input their thoughts. Nine-year-old Uchechi, enjoys writing because it doubles as a creative outlet. “Mostly I write about stuff that happens to me,” she says. She adds that she wants to become a singer in the future but doesn’t mind becoming a pediatrician like some of her friends.
The girls got help to create the magazine thanks to the expertise of Annette Bazira Okafor. Annette is the driving force behind the magazine’s creation. As a teacher and editor of the magazine, she made the decision to publish the magazine and share the work of the talented girls.
“I just decided to start the magazine, because first of all being able to write a magazine they just thought all you need is a pencil and a paper and it won’t be very costly, but it turned to not be very true,” she says on the task of publishing of the magazine.
“It started with part of the research I was doing in my doctorate program on black youth and popular culture. And then I came across work that had been done by Professor Craig Watkins who does work on black youth and popular culture as well, and talks about the fact that black girls are the most undeserved and undiscernible demographic in popular culture.” Says Annette.
Identifying as not only a teacher but as a black mother as well, she noticed her daughter enjoyed playing with certain apps or games that didn’t represent young black girls prominently or not at all. “They love to do the dress up apps and makeover apps, and these images do not have any representations of them. So I just thought it would be nice to have something that represents them, have images that look like them. So I got them to make this magazine so that they could have drawings, black girls in them and whom they could look at and relate to,” she says.
Annette stresses that the underrepresentation of young black girls goes unnoticed in a world where consumers cave into a mainstream lacking diversity. “My research got me thinking, I didn’t realize how really bad the problem was that they’re really that underrepresented.”
But the girls are not letting that discourage them. “I think we can give girls a positive voice and we can influence other girls in the world,” says nine-year-old Chisom A., who dreams of becoming a lawyer in the future.
Fellow author on the magazine, also named Chisom, nine, says she wants to inspire other girls to create content just like them. “When they see the magazine they will be like ‘oh these black girls are doing something like this maybe I should do it too.’ So we could inspire other black girls not to like keep quiet but to stand out and give their opinions,” she says.
The girls cover a wide range of topics that interest them. “I usually write recipes and I write about what happened when I was bullied and I am writing about my trip last summer to Nigeria.” Says twelve-year-old Taylor. She also hopes to run a joke column in future issues as it coincides with her dream of becoming a comedian.
With the young girls writing to inspire others to dream big, they also have big dreams for the future. Thirteen-year old Morgan, is currently in a gifted program in high school and wants to channel her love for science into her dream career. “My favourite subject is science and I aspire to be a surgeon,” she says.
Currently, the magazine produces two issues annually. The girls want to create more issues in the future. For now, you can subscribe to the magazine by visiting their website blackgirlsmagazine.ca.