I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. Words paint pictures, paint moments, paint stories for me. And man, do I love a good story. The more fantastic, the better. Don’t get me wrong, the real world is great (occasionally), but the worlds of fantasy are even better. Anything is possible. Anything is supposed to be possible.
Now if only I could find a good fantasy movie with a Black female lead who has badass magical powers. Because when I really think about it, those are practically non-existent. Reading fantasy and sci-fi novels inspired me to start writing myself. From a young age, I found myself writing stories with white main characters, white secondary characters and white everybody else. It took some years for me to see the problem with this and the reason it was like this in the first place.
For one reason or another, I struggled to see a main character who was like me, Black and female. Plain and simple. Except it isn’t simple at all. Being older now, I realize that I was making stories like the ones I had read. Not content-wise, but in the way that I had majority, if not all, white characters. And I thought that this was a weird thing, a solely me thing.
But after seeing novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk entitled: “The Danger of a Single Story,” I realized that no, I was not the only Black girl this happened to. What she said resonated with me even more as a fellow Nigerian. But what really got to me was that she said she was writing stories with white people and she was a little girl living in Nigeria. I’m telling you now, as someone who has visited multiple times, there is no prevalent white population in Nigeria. Yet she was making up stories like the ones she read, where the girls had pale skin and blonde hair.
Knowing I wasn’t the only one that had been influenced by that helped me feel less… guilty. But also made me realize what a problem that was. As a Black girl growing up, there were no Harry Potter equivalents that looked like me. Never any special Black girl chosen to be the heroine, who had the power to save the world. If there were any Black or dark-skinned characters at all, they were background characters or the protagonist’s best friend.
It’s a little different now. I’ve found more fantasy genre literature written by Black women with Black female leads who are the chosen ones, who have the power to save the world, and are as kickass as they come. And all I can think is how I wish I’d read books like this growing up, how I wish I’d seen movies like that. Because it’s so so important that little Black girls everywhere know, that little Black girls believe that they can be heroines too, not just white people. And I want to write that Black fantasy and let them know that there is such a thing as Black Girl Magic.