So far throughout the Black Girl Magic series we have heard from entrepreneurs and founders of non-profits. This week we will hear from youth activist and filmmaker Natalie. Natalie is an activist and filmmaker who hopes to create a more accurate representation of all marginalized people through her films. She is a freshman at American University in Washington, DC where she is majoring in film/media arts. I had the amazing opportunity to interview Natalie about her dreams, aspirations, recent events, and how she is changing the world one film at a time.
Your blog is very unique! What inspired you to make your blog Nataliearising?
Thank you! Nataliearising, is actually my third attempt at making a blog. I started a few back in high school, but I was never truly happy with them. Like most people, I grew a lot in high school. To be honest, I am still growing every day - we all are. Because of that, I had a difficult time creating a blog that reflected my growing identity.
I was inspired to make Nataliearising because I wanted to create a space where it was safe to do just that. To grow, to rise, to stand up for what you believe in, to be yourself even if you’re not sure what that means yet. Through documenting my growth as an 18-year-old Black girl, I hope to validate the experiences of other young adults who are growing as well - Black girls who struggle to love their hair, college students who are dealing with depression, people who are adjusting to the single life. My blog is for them. I also use my platform to showcase my films and encourage young people to get involved with activism as well. I was also motivated by a few other bloggers like my friends, Floreashelby and Dominique Hobdy (Of the Same Cloth).
In your blog, you said that youth can also make a difference in the Black Lives Matter Movement. What are some ways youth can get involved?
(Natalie and her friends at the Justice for Alton Sterling and Philando Castille protest)
Young people can most definitely make a difference in the Black Lives Matter Movement! For one, most of us have phones and many of us have social media accounts. Half of the power is right there! Using social media is an underrated and extremely powerful way to educate people and show solidarity for the people or movements you’re advocating for.
Aside from social media, finding local protests in your city is another way to start. It’s not for everyone and not all parents approve, but if you’re willing and allowed to protest it’s a great way to get involved. There’s also room in the movement for artists, writers, organizers, filmmakers, poets, athletes, etc. There’s more than one way to get involved with social justice and that’s the beauty of it. Often people’s view of activism is very black and white, but anything and everything can be a form of activism. Not everyone has to do the same thing. As long as you stand up for what you think is right, you’re doing it correctly!
You also mention that many non-black people misunderstand the meaning of Black Lives Matter. Why do you think that? What are ways youth can educate their friends/peers?
I feel like a lot of non-Black people (and quite a few Black people to be honest) misunderstand the meaning of Black Lives Matter because they’re not listening. When they hear Black Lives Matter they think that it’s some kind of Black supremacy movement. They’re not listening to the fact that many systems in place do not believe that Black lives matter. If our lives did matter, innocent Black bodies would not be killed by those who are supposed to protect us, Black women wouldn’t have bananas thrown at them on college campuses, the list goes on and on. When people say Black Lives Matter they mean that Black lives should matter, not that other lives don’t. Youth can educate their friends and peers by sharing this definition with others who may not understand. Whether it’s in a classroom discussion, casual conversation, or twitter thread it’s important to create more allies than enemies so spreading the message is super important.
You made a film about Black Lives Matter, what did it talk about? What did you learn while making the film?
I feel like I’ve made a lot of films about Black Lives Matter lol, but my most recent one Organize and Agitate, was made at a protest after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. It was made to debunk the myths that the BLM movement is full of angry, non-peaceful people who hate police officers. Is the Black community angry when innocent lives are taken by those in power? Yes - but most of the movement recognizes the importance of peaceful protesting and non-violent direct action. My film showed the passion behind people in DC and their frustration with police brutality, but it also shows them encouraging one another to make a difference and believe in their power. Making that film and many others about the BLM movement have taught me how important it is to have unity amongst the Black community as well as our allies if we want to create change.
Recently, the black community at American University(AU) has been dealing with racism. I attended one of the protests to support you all. Has AU made any improvements since the incident? How are you all doing?
(Editor Note: Black female students at AU reported that bananas were being thrown at them. There have been several racial incidents that occurred at AU over the past months. Students held a protest to demand that the school do something about it. I attended the protest. Click here for more on the story!
(Natalie and her friend at American University Protest)
Thank you so much for standing in solidarity with us! It meant a lot to have the support of so many other universities. For those who don’t know, there have been incidents of racism at AU for quite a while, but a few weeks ago when two Black girls had bananas thrown at them it was the last straw. We created hashtags, had a few protests, town hall meetings, and the university got a lot of media coverage. For a while, it seemed like nothing was working, but recently the administration came out with an action plan that included many of the demands that the diversity student organizations asked for, which is great! We’re all happy that those in charge are working with us, but we’re still waiting to see some action behind their words. Until then, the Black community at AU has just been trying to heal. We’ve held healing circles and we’ve had meetings to create plans of action, but most importantly we’re all just trying to support one another and become more united. Although it’s been hard, this incident has really brought the Black community together.
What are you majoring and minoring in at AU?
Currently, I’m majoring in film/media arts at AU, but I am considering a double major in anthropology. I’m taking a class this semester called, “The Anthropology of Life in the US” and it’s definitely one of my favorites! I think that having a background in anthropology can help me a lot with filmmaking and character development for scriptwriting.
Going to a Predominately White Institution (PWI) is really hard especially for black women! What has your experience been? How have you coped with the different issues?
Going to a PWI can most definitely be difficult for students of color and Black women. I’m kind of used to it because I went to a predominately white high school. Compared to my high school where I was one of only TWO Black girls in my graduating class, college is much better for me. Although we have had some racial tensions at AU I’ve found a home with a lot of other students of color here. I go to meetings for most of the activism and affinity groups on campus like the Black Student Alliance, AU’s NAACP, and SisterSister which is a club for Black women. Aside from using the support of other Black students I always try to take time for myself when difficulties arise. I am a big advocate of self-care dates. Being Black in white spaces can be very taxing so sometimes an escape off campus is necessary to recharge. I also look to God, my friends back home, and my family for additional support. When neither of these works, I turn to writing. Blogging, writing poetry, or simply journaling is a huge de-stressor for me. There’s just something healing about having your thoughts written out and in front of you. I’m learning new strategies every day, but these have worked well for me so far.
What is your favorite quote?
Janelle Monae has a beautiful quote about personal growth that I try to live by. She said, “I feel myself becoming the fearless person I have dreamt of being. Have I arrived? No. But I’m constantly evolving and challenging myself to be unafraid to make mistakes.”
Why did you decide to go to college in Washington D.C.?
I actually went to a boarding school for high school, so I spent four years in a very rural part of Virginia that I didn’t like very much. I longed for the diversity and fast pace that came with being the city. When it was time to apply to college, I applied to schools with mostly urban campuses and Washington D.C. is the one I ended up in. I love it!
(Natalie at the Million Man March-Justice or Else)
What does black girl magic mean to you?
To me, Black Girl Magic is something that lives within each and every Black girl. It’s the ability to love yourself in a world that tells you not to. It’s the beauty, resiliency, creativity, and overall amazingness that every Black girl has. From our hair that is incredibly versatile and defies gravity to our melanin that pops severely, Black Girl Magic is within us all - even if it takes a while to discover!
Stay Tuned for Part 5 of the Black Girl Magic Series!
Click here if you missed Part 3!