Black with Kids – It’s NOT Magic


Being a mother of a Black pre-teen is more than a notion. In wanting to validate the greatness within my daughter, and even in others, I have often said the phrase “Black Girl Magic.”

“Work your Black Girl Magic!”

“Sprinkle that Black Girl Magic, hunny!”

“Yessss! That Black Girl Magic is shining!”

In saying it to my daughter once, I began to think about what “magic” really is.


a : the use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces

b : magic rites or incantations (spells)

This has bothered me for some time. I wrote a blog for my young Black girls – requesting her to shine her Black Girl Magic at all times.

But what am I really saying? What are we really saying when we say this to our youth and sisters?

Why do we consider the excellence in which we move and be, to be magical? As if there lies no merit in it being just who we are, the perfectly designed being that is purposed to be great? Since when did accomplishments be diminished to being magic? Something supernatural, occurring under a spell or charm?

Why is this considered a phrase of validation?

I recall some of my favorite movies, Disney movies of course, where magic was a central element.  Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog. In both, the element of magic was used to alter reality. In Aladdin, the Genie gives supernatural gifts to Prince Aladdin to change his life; in The Princess and the Frog, the Shadow Man uses magic to alter reality in the most dark ways.

But we congratulate our girls by telling them they are Black Girl Magic?

I became furious! Maybe unwarranted, yet there were continuous thoughts of contradictions and confusion that followed.

Why can’t we just be great? Why we gotta always be magical?

Why are we so bent on being celebrated in the most interesting ways, that we forget that we are just being who we are designed to be? Would we really say, White Girl Magic? Or do we see a separate standard for ourselves that we must continuously paint a picture of make-believe for our youth?

Why must be supernatural when we exhibit what it looks like to operate in our individual gifts?

Anita Baker said it best,

The story ends, as stories do

Reality steps into view

No longer living life in paradise-or fairy tales

We are not in a fairy tale, (are there black fairy tales?) but in the reality that, in America, we have gassed up our black girls and boys by equating the actuality of their limitless potential and abilities with magic.

From now on, I think I’ll just say,

“You go girl!”

Marlena Little

Educator, visionary and leader.

Marlena Little grew up in the inner-city of Chicago in one of the worst neighborhoods of the city. Yet the contrast of her home and school life provided evidence to the statement, “it’s not where you’ve been but where you are going”. Having attended one of the best elementary and high-schools in the country, she was determined to live beyond the poverty and violence of her neighborhood, knowing education was the escape.

Marlena Little, a Memphian by choice, relocated to Memphis to fight for educational equity. As a teacher, it was important for Marlena’s students to see her as an example of that escape. As an administrator, Marlena challenged teachers and staff to illuminate education as the way out, yet as a visionary, Marlena has created paths of escape.

As Founder of Life Prep Academy Schools, Marlena Little has seamlessly merged her childhood with the standard of excellence imbedded in her educational experiences to provide students, regardless of any “label”, the limitless opportunities a high-quality education affords.  Her philosophical beliefs about education are the guiding principles of Life Prep.

In addition to her many roles, Marlena Little is also a mother and forever learner.  She is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership and has the pleasure of raising a nine-year-old daughter.