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The Importance Of Bristol’s First Black Girl Convention!

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November 26th saw Bristol’s first ever Black Girl Convention hosted by OJiJi Purple’s founder Mena Fombo at the Arnolfini. The event was a chance for self-identifying black women to come together, celebrate success and share stories from their varied experiences. The event hosted a series of black-owned business stalls, inspiring speakers, performers and a beautiful exhibition of the ‘No. You Cannot Touch My Hair campaign. The convention was exuberantly hosted by Mena Fombo who kept the energy high and lead the room in powerful chants, declaring our power and self-belief as black women.

Photos by Roxene Anderson

Approximately 60 women and girls from across Bristol turned out to support the event and meet each other. The convention was a uniquely intergenerational experience. It spoke to the idea that; no matter what stage in life, black women have a unifying experience and sentiment that draws them together and creates a warm and safe space. Black women have a unique way of creating a homely atmosphere when they come together. As I am only in Bristol as a student, I have always struggled to make a base out of my time here. But it is spaces like these that make me feel accepted, loved and appreciated. Convention attendee and BITNB member Yasmin Warsame described the event as ‘simply black girl magic’.

Photos by Roxene Anderson

I had the privilege of participating in the panel discussion, where I was joined by some phenomenal local women. Each of the panellists worked hard in their respective areas whether it be liberation movements, school or work to create a positive change. We spoke passionately between ourselves and with the audience about our experiences and how we navigated predominantly white spaces. The panel varied from campaigners to life coaches, yet the message of unity and progression remained consistent. Black women from the audience shared their individual gripes about how their identities interacted with their working life and living in Bristol. For me, this was powerful, much of the narratives and conversations surrounding blackness are predominantly London-centric. This insight and overview was a perspective rarely heard and only echoed the cries of black women elsewhere.

Photos by Roxene Anderson

Safe spaces for black women are incredibly important to our growth and perseverance. In an environment that seeks to take from us – whether it be our culture, emotional labour or energy – black women need these spaces to recharge and become our best selves. There is nothing more calming than exchanging laughs and compliments with other black women who also just seem to get it. The convention was a moment of escapism, like many of the women in attendance, I unshackled myself from the persona I use to interact with everyday whiteness and was my true self. Bristol’s first Black Girl Convention was a space that allowed for complete candidness that you could not find anywhere else. The conversations were pure and the love ran deep.

The Black Girl Convention followed London’s first event Black Girl Festival hosted by Paula Akpan and Nicole Crentsil. Slowly but surely we are seeing a rise in spaces curated by black women for black women. Hopefully from these spaces new ideas, partnerships, business and most importantly friendships come to fruition. The community and support network I always needed as a young black woman is finally here.

Photos by Roxene Anderson

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