Contributors display the first issues of Black Girls Magazine at their Dec. 10 launch party in Richmond Hill.
GIRLS FROM VAUGHAN, BRAMPTON, SCARBOROUGH UNVEIL NEW MAGAZINE IN RICHMOND HILL\
In a world where pop culture rules, black girls are almost invisible.
That startling news is what prompted the launch of a new magazine in York Region Dec. 10 – a magazine created by black girls, aimed at young female readers.
Maple resident Annette Bazira-Okafor says she was compiling research for her post-doctoral studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education when she discovered, “in a world where corporate media, films, television programs, music genres and magazines aggressively target kids and teens, black girls remain indiscernible and underserved”.
At the same time, she says, black girls are deeply immersed in pop culture.
THEY CONSUME IT, THEY ADORE IT AND THEY LIVE IT.
Bazira-Okafor sees this first hand. A mom of a nine-year-old girl, she has observed girls at play dates and sleep-overs gathering around the computer screen to watch beauty make-overs and play dress-up apps “but in all that media, there were no representations of them at all”.
So she decided to change that.
For the past few months, she has helped a group of young girls from York Region, Brampton and Scarborough publish Black Girl’s Magazine. They held their official launch party Dec. 10 at Richmond Hill Public Library.
The girls have been meeting at Bazira-Okafor’s Vaughan residence once a month to brainstorm — composing stories on a variety of topics including politics, travel and book reviews — and they have published their first two editions, which are now available at all eight branches of Vaughan Public Library, two branches of Richmond Hill Public Library and three branches of Toronto Public Library.
Bazira-Okafor covered publication costs and now the fledgling magazine group is looking for funding, sponsors and more contributors.
Young writers — especially black girls — are motivated by a rare chance at “authenticity”, said Toronto teacher Ayin Obasogie, who brought a stack of the magazines to sell to teachers at her school for classrooms and the school library.
Being able to write for a real audience about issues that are important to them provides a big boost to girls’ self esteem, she said.
“You are showing the world what you can do, showing the world you have a voice and can be a role model to those who have a dream and are afraid to start,” said Darcie Sutherland, another “cheerleader” for the girls’ start-up and teacher liaison in Inclusive School and Community Services at York Region District School Board.
“I salute you and tell you, you are into something great: the age of information,” Itah Sadu, author and storyteller, told the girls in a rousing speech.
Sadu promised the girls she would begin stocking the magazine in her downtown Toronto book store, A Different Booklist.
For one of the magazine contributors, Uchechi Esonwanne, 9, the biggest deal about her new publication is the chance to hang out and listen to other black girls’ opinions, “because usually the magazines we see are just white people”.