Four Teen Writers Weigh in on Their Experiences with Black Girl’s Magazine
Writing is one of the most rewarding forms of self-expression. For years, youth have been learning about the transformative power of writing at Black Girls’s Magazine (BGM), a publication in over 200 public and school libraries focusing on empowering young Black girls to share stories in their community.
In a recent webinar hosted by YouthREX, founder of BGM, Annette Bazira-Okafor, talked about her journey and the impact of the magazine on the topic of Building Black Futures Through Literacy.
“Black Girls Magazine validates Black girls’ experiences, and gives them a place to tell their stories,” said Bazira-Okafor in our panel discussion with Camesha Cox, Founding Director, The Reading Partnership, Tana Turner, Owner & Principal Consultant, Turner Consulting Group, and Joanne Marcano and Pauletta Wandja Dika, who were past participants in the Reading Partnership for Parents Program.
To learn more about the ways this organization has been changing the lives of young Black girls in Toronto, Annette sat down with some of the participants and asked about why they love BGM. Check out the Q&A below.
How long have you been writing for Black Girl’s Magazine?
Chisom Agbakwa, 14
I’ve been writing for BGM for over five years since the very first issue was released.
For me, BGM has opened a lot of opportunities to partake in various activities. For example, I have been involved in many interviews with radio stations and news outlets, and even meeting different government ministers. It has also led to us speaking during particular Black History Month events, and even a large group trip to Montreal back in 2018.
Deva Ukhuegbe, 18
I have been a writer for Black Girl’s Magazine since it started in 2016. My main role is as a writer; I attend monthly meetings with other writers where we brainstorm ideas and give feedback on our work. But I have been an assistant editor for BGM, a lead creator in BGM Teen, and a research assistant for promotional work in the US and Canada.
Amarachi Achioso, 16
I’ve been writing for Black Girl’s Magazine for about five years now. Some activities that I’ve been involved in include travelling as a group to Montreal, which was the theme behind one of our magazine issues. Interviewing different people, this includes February 11th this year when we interviewed an engineer from the Canadian Space Agency for International Day of Women and Girls in Science. I’ve also been able to host a number of workshops this year as a collaboration between the Women’s Support Network of York Region and BGM. The activities held via Zoom during the Covid-19 period targeted young Black kids and teens and included a trivia night, a workout workshop, vegan baking, and several others.
In what ways has BGM impacted your life or outlook on life?
When I first started with the magazine, I had no confidence in my skills as a writer. I was scared to have a platform and speak my mind, but I gave it a shot anyway. Now, I have grown as a leader and I learned to love myself in the process.
Being a part of BGM has made me open to being more active in terms of social justice issues. I say this because being able to participate in the making of this magazine gave me a chance to give back to our community, but also to provide inspiration for other Black girls. We originally created this magazine as a way to ‘combat’ the underrepresentation of Black girls in the media, and after putting our minds to it, we truly were able to make something wonderful. As a young Black teenager, I wanted to make a difference and BGM taught me a little bit on how to do that by contributing to positive images of Black people through combating negative stereotypes, discrimination, and prejudice. In general, my outlook on life has been impacted because I know now that we have to be willing to take initiative and to be the change that we want to see.
BGM has allowed me to meet and interact with a number of different people. I’ve been able to hear about different job careers and how these individuals were able to get to where they are today. I’ve learned about the educational pathways they took, especially since I’m a high school student who’s looking to go to university. A lot of what I’ve heard from these individuals has given me a better understanding of how the world around me works, especially with different careers and job pathways.
Mbabazi Okafor, 17 (BGM Co-Founder)
Through BGM I’ve been blessed to meet and get to know some amazing Black girls better who are passionate about what they do and so gifted. I am so grateful for that because they all inspire me. We have artists, poets, activists, business owners, and amazing writers who contribute to our magazine. One of my favourite things to do on weekends is meeting with the girls. I am delighted to read their stories and see their work published, too. I am proud of our girls.
What are some of your most memorable moments/times with BGM and why?
What I love about being a part of Black Girl’s Magazine is that it’s an inclusive space for girls to come to and share their ideas and just hang out. It’s a place where I’ve met some of the best people today and have had lots of fun with. One of my favourite memories has to be our trip that we took to Montreal. We had a chance to visit places like Mount Royal, McGill University, and the Canadian Space Agency. At the Canadian Space Agency we were able to talk with some of the engineers there. They talked about some of the projects they’ve worked on and we were able to tour and see some of these projects, which was really exciting.
The first meetings we had in my living room; our trip to Montreal; eating pizza in the library because we had to do media interviews there; being nervous about having to talk when the news networks interviewed us; and all of the laughs and hugs. Most of my closest friends write or wrote for BGM at some point. Nonetheless, no matter how long I’ve known the BGM girls, there is a community. We help each other and I hope they feel loved like I do.
My most memorable moment with the other girls in BGM was when we went on a trip to Montreal about three years ago. From getting to ride on the train for six hours with three of my friends, to staying in a hotel, getting to spend time with everyone else, simply laughing and enjoying the view was so relaxing and fun. Plus, we visited amazing tourist attractions like the Canadian Space Agency and hiked up Mount Royal. Overall, it was truly a time that I will never forget. But besides this, all the BGM meetings were always fun as well. Not only did we get to spend time with friends while eating pizza and snacks, but we also got to contribute to an amazing magazine every single time.
I’ve had lots of fun memories in my time with BGM. A few years ago we got to go to Queen’s Park and interview the Honourable Mitzie Hunter (the Minister of Education at the time). We also went on a trip to Montreal where we got to tour the Canadian Space Agency. It was my first time out of the province and I had an amazing time! It’s safe to say that BGM changed my life and I can’t wait to see where the future takes us next.