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#ForBlackGirlsOnly event promotes sisterhood in Jo’burg

Everywhere you looked was all black. Black girls in black clothes punting black womanness. So although the request had been made for those in attendance to do so wearing all black, maybe it wasn’t the best colour choice, considering the sun was out in full force.

“I feel like I’m being cooked,” someone said. “I know melanin works as a natural sunblock but I mean, really, this is too much.”

And an abundance of melanin there was. Black women of all shades, shapes and sizes packed Constitution Hill to capacity on Sunday as Johannesburg played host to the second #ForBlackGirlsOnly event.

It was nothing too earnest, just a place for black women to come together over a shared sisterhood in the absence of the usual patriarchal, cultural and societal pressures.

There was music, poetry, food, books, flea market-type stalls and twerking. Lots of twerking. One by one they took to the stage, gyrating with vigour with their backs to the crowd, to loud applause. No one would have blamed you if you thought you were in the middle of a robust twerk-fest.

Following a particularly energetic twerking session, one of my colleagues alighted from the stage out of breath and said: “Guys! How great is it to be able to twerk without some guy coming up behind you and grabbing you like this?” She offered a very physical illustration. We couldn’t help but laugh.

We talked. We hugged. We danced.We shared our stories. We inspired each other. We were one.

Home-made lemon-flavoured body butter, African print earrings and a copy of K Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams. Those were my best buys.

And what’s any event these days without an abundance of selfies? That was probably one of the main reasons #FBGOJhb31Jan was trending on Twitter during the course of the day. I took a bruising to the head a few times (blame it on the selfie sticks).

Just a few minor gripes. Next time, more food please – we black women love to eat, neh – and better signage and event programmes so we know exactly what’s happening and when. And more stalls with varied ranges. Oh, and some gazebos. I’m still extra-crispy from too much sun exposure.

In the midst of it all, a colour-code rebel was spotted dressed all in white. Cheeky, I thought, but what better way to stand out in a sea of black? I might try that the next time I crack an invite to those never-ending all-white dress code functions. Wear all black, that is.

So what did I walk away with in the end?

A sense of comradeship. For once there was a space where black women of varying ages, though mostly young, were not competing for the attention of men. That, in itself, was liberating.

An appreciation of the importance of defining for oneself what it means to be a black woman. Too often that is stipulated on our behalf, with little to no wiggle room beyond set borders.

Also, a simple conversation. It’s amazing the things one learns and how one’s mind broadens by merely taking the time to listen to what others have to say.

And finally, love. It makes the world go round – as clichéd as that may be, it was there: you felt it; you gave it.

I’ll see you at the next one – if you’re a black woman.

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Nelly Shamase
Nelly is a regular contributor to the Mail & Guardian.

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