AMANDLA STENBERG: I have a hoodie that says “Black Girls Are Magic” on it. At first, I was really shy to wear it. It can be intimidating to wear a message like that publicly. Then I realized what a cool statement that is. When I think of magic, I think of power and creativity and overcoming things. I think of how artistry really is magic—black communities are able to be artistic and intellectual, achieve milestone after milestone, despite everything that they face. I see how the hoodie is a symbol of oppression and racial profiling—yet, it’s also ours. Minorities can take things that have been used against them, spin them on their axes, and reclaim them as their own.
We live in a time that is so saturated by the media and so focused around celebrity culture and entertainment, so I’m very conscious of how I present myself. For a while there was a divide between the things I thought and cared about and how I expressed myself on a public level. But culture and social media are a crucial parts of civil rights at this point. Now I see kids on social media who are expressing themselves and being artistic and posting selfies, and that feels like a revolution to me. They’re showing how black kids are creative and sensitive.
Recently, I was talking to a friend, saying that people are looking up to me as a figure for social justice, someone who talks about feminism and racism. Those are things I really care about. But I told them that I feel like I haven’t really done any great thing that makes me the voice of a generation, or the face of a revolution. My friend said to me that actually it’s revolutionary in itself to be a young African-American person, to just be yourself. It’s a tiny revolution to express yourself fully and be who you want to be, especially when systems tell you that you can’t. I’ve realized how powerful it is for me to just discuss issues with young people and begin conversations.
There are so many awesome, powerful young black people. Something is brewing—there’s this movement that’s happening. Now is a time for us to connect and bond over blackness and the current day’s struggle, and to create things. The racism we face today is not as blatant as in the past, but it reveals itself when black people are not able to pursue the careers they want or don’t believe in themselves. I think an essential component of the war against police brutality it is just that black voices need to be uplifted and heard. I want to see more black creators. I want a place for black girls to exist within art and fashion and all components of pop culture. Black kids need to be told that they’re capable of so much.
—As told to Deidre Dyer