Black Girls Are: Justice for Black Girls Fifth Annual Conference

Staff Writer Mahogany Couvson-Morris with Nikki Giovanni, President Gayle,  JBG’s Founder and Executive Director Brianna Baker, and attendee at the Justice for Black Girls Fifth National Conference. Photo provided by Couvson-Morris.
Staff Writer Mahogany Couvson-Morris with Nikki Giovanni, President Gayle, JBG’s Founder and Executive Director Brianna Baker, and attendee at the Justice for Black Girls Fifth National Conference. Photo provided by Couvson-Morris.

After four years of virtual convenings to amplify their mission to marinate Black girls in love, Justice for Black Girls Community Organization (JBG) hosted their fifth National Conference at Spelman College on November 12th, 2023. This sacred day of community and Black girl brilliance, facilitated by JBG’s Founder and Executive Director Brianna Baker, M.A. (Class of 2016), was themed “Black Girls are Theorists of Our Own Experiences.” The intergenerational keynote conversation featuring Dr. Nikki Giovanni and JBG’s Program Innovation and Education interns (including myself alongside Agnes Scott student Kennedi Malone) was followed by panel discussions with England’s very own organization advancing Black girl liberation, Milk Honeybees. The conference explored the significance of global advocacy on behalf of Black girls, and this beautiful conference culminated in an enormous affirmation of Black girlhood. 

This conference not only occurred on a collegiate campus, noting the significance of Black girlhood being honored in spaces that value knowledge production. It also blossomed at our specific institution, which continues to sustain its commitment to equipping Black girls with tools to develop them into international change agents. Brianna Baker formally describes her work as the Founder and Executive Director of JBG, but in reality, she is co-creating liberated spaces for and alongside Black girls through mutual aid, as well as funding Black Girlhood Studies research. Her commitment to the liberation of Black girls led to the inception of the Black Girlhood Studies Fellowship, which I have had the honor of participating in since my first year at Spelman. It was created in partnership between JBG and the Spelman College Social Justice Program. Through this fellowship, Spelman students have been able to pragmatically engage in theorizing our own lived experiences. Sarah Williams, a junior and Black Girlhood Studies Fellow for three years, shared that her participation in the JBG National Conference made her feel a sense of freedom because “It was on my campus that celebrates Black Girl Magic, and it was really nice seeing other Spelman students who I knew or who knew me come to this conference and feel that liberation that I’ve been feeling for the past two years, and sharing a part of my journey with them, [in] this environment, this community, and this society, really empowered me and made me feel significant.” 

Not only was this a space dedicated to affirming Black girlhood, but it also claimed the possibility for wisdom to be exchanged between Black girls and Black women elders–Dr. Nikki Giovanni, in particular. Brianna Baker shared that she was deeply intentional about having Dr. Giovanni engage in conversation with JBG interns, including Kennedi Malone and myself, because “we can’t affirm that Black girls are stakeholders and theorists of their own experiences and then consistently ask them to sit down while they listen to folks that are older than them describe Black girlhood.” Her goal was to communicate that in honoring the wisdom of Dr. Nikki Giovanni, communities must simultaneously recognize that Black girls possess profound expertise in the vast ways in which they embody girlhood.

With regard to my experience as a Spelman student, Black Girlhood Studies Fellow, and JBG intern of four years, participating in this conference was the most gratifying crossover episode that I have been able to experience since beginning my matriculation. People close to me know the extent to which I value intellectual safety and my understanding of it as one of Spelman’s most defining features. This conference undoubtedly affirmed Black girls, in all our glorious forms, as critical thinkers, artists, leaders, community members, and insightful proponents of global liberation.

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