Kenya Hunt is an award-winning journalist and the fashion director for Grazia UK. She has worked for some of the world’s most influential publications in the US and the UK. As an American journalist who has been living and working in London for a decade, Kenya Hunt has a very unique perspective on being a Black global citizen.
Girl Gurl Grrrl, is a collection of essays about growing up Black, Black womanhood, Blackness in general and trying to survive and thrive in the age of Black Girl Magic. Most of the essays are written by Kenya Hunt, but there are also contributions from Jessica Horn, Ebele Okobi, Funmi Fetto, Freddie Harrel and Candice Carty-Williams (the author of Queenie).
I have grown tired of conversations that only look at our exceptionalism in relation to misconceptions about us. And I have also grown equally tired of conversations where we must explain our chosen states of being, whether that be self-improving, excelling and flexing or slowing down, muddling through and figuring it all out. White people aren’t expected to slay all day. And when they do, they aren’t asked to defend said excellence. Why should we? Yes, we slay. But Black Girl Magic is not just in the headline-making feats but in the magic of just being. Unbothered. Unencumbered. No questions answered, except those asked of ourselves.
I found this book to be extremely timely because I am in constant conversation with my friends about “Black Girl Magic.” Does the phrase help us or hurt us? Is it magic? Or is it excellence? And is it ok for us to be neither? Does this hashtag leave space for that? These are not easy questions to answer, but the conversation is needed and appreciated.
To be woke, in the original sense, is to understand James Baldwin’s declaration that “to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” It’s to understand the unique kind of exhaustion that comes from being perpetually attuned to discrimination. It’s to be weary and wary. To be woke is to long for a day when one doesn’t have to stay woke.
One of my favorite chapters was Chapter 2, “Notes on Woke” because we have come to the point where the use of the word is…tiring. Kenya Hunt quotes Baldwin twice in this chapter and discusses the facets of “woke” in 28 bullet points. It was fascinating.
There was so much Black womanhood ground covered in this book – hair issues, colorism, the church (and especially the conversation about Aretha’s funeral, the sexism and no behavior displayed there and the clear picture of the Black church’s tumultuous relationship with Black women), leaving America and running into racism across the pond, miscarriages and being a Black mom. And then there’s the “you must be twice as good” talk we all got from our parents, which put us on the path to overwork ourselves in the first place.
Girl Gurl Grrrl was a fascinating and thought-provoking read. It’s a compilation of all of the things we talk about at the salon or at brunch with our besties. I loved the discussion on the use of the word, “girl.” It is absolutely amazing (and entertaining) how we can manipulate the use of such a simple word.
But throughout my evolving networks of friends – and especially so among my Black chosen sisters – one term of endearment remains: girl. Equal parts greeting, exclamation, and rallying cry at once. As long as I can remember, girl was the root word in the unique love language between Black women, regardless of age.
Girl Gurl Grrrl will be released on December 8, 2020. Thanks to Bibliolifestyle and Harper One Books for the advance copy and for the opportunity to participate in this book tour.
Girl, go get this book! You won’t regret it.