The invite was clear. Black girls only, wearing black. And we came in our numbers to attend #ForBlackGirlsOnly event held at Constitution Hill on Sunday. All, or most, wearing black, despite the scorching heat.
Some were thinking, It’s about time. “I think we’ve all been waiting for someone to have the guts to start something like this,” said 15-year-old Amonge Sinxoto, who came with her older sister. “Now that it’s here, it’s amazing to see it all come together.”
As said, and as many social media pictures and selfies will attest, it was a glorious sight. All around me were black women of all shapes and sizes; from all walks of life, sitting on the grass with their picnic baskets listening to speaker after speaker sharing their stories.
The feeling of bumping into women whose work I admire like Panashe Chigumadzi, Pumla Dineo Gqola and Simphiwe Dana was magical. These are women I would ordinarily put on a pedestal, but at #ForBlackGirlsOnly, it felt like we were all equals. I think that was the point of the event, to revel in our shared experience as black women.
It felt like a long overdue family get-together
#ForBlackGirlsOnly was founded and organised by Sivu Siwisa, first in Cape Town last year before moving to Joburg this weekend. As you can tell from the name, it has attracted some controversy, even before the event took place.
The Facebook page had messages from people who accused #ForBlackGirlsOnly of being racist, with one user posting: “Isn’t (sic) this a bit exclusive (and yes, RACIST) of other women in South Africa, if white girls created an event like this we would be screaming racism, shouldn’t you be working on an event for all women to come together…” The women attending saw it differently. Lerato Mutsila said: “We still need to find our own spaces where we can gather and be around people who share similar experiences and obstacles, so we can overcome the oppression as a community.” There were men as well as a few white people outside, trying to make their way into the space.
Books and twerking at the historic Constitution Hill
My favourite moment was when one of the women got on stage and started twerking to the music, which had the whole crowd roaring in support. There were women DJs behind the decks. Attendees were chilling and digging into their picnic baskets. I was just waiting for them to play Beyonce, who is to me the pinnacle of #BlackGirlMagic.
The choice of venue was empowering. Here we were, black women gathered at a place where not more that 100 years ago, people who looked like us were locked up for demanding their human rights.
Zingisa Socikwa said: “Looking around at everyone I feel really proud to be a part of this event. A lot has been happening with regards to race relations and I think now is the perfect time for an event like this one.” And I couldn’t agree more.
What are you thoughts? Do you think such an event is necessary or racist?
*This article has been edited. The headline was changed from “#ForBlackGirlsOnly: A long-overdue family gathering” to “This is what it felt like to be at #ForBlackGirlsOnly”