Throughout this year, we have learned about inspiring girls and women who truly define Black Girl Magic. We have heard from fashion designers, community activists, filmmakers, and students. I started the series with Day of the Girl in the Summer of 2016, and many people enjoyed reading all the amazing interviews and being inspired by each and every girl. I created the Black Girl Magic series to celebrate black girls and women who are doing amazing things. To end the series, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview my cousin Akirah Crawford. Akirah is a community organizer, educator, and a student. She won the Fulbright Scholarship, which gave her the opportunity to travel to Malaysia to teach English and develop programs. Akirah graduated from Virginia State University and is currently in graduate school. She is currently serving in Swaziland Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. Read on to hear her inspiring story.
Name: Akirah Crawford
Facebook: Kirah Simone
What college did you attend? What was your major and minor?
I attended Virginia State University. I graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Social Work. Currently attending the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in their Master’s International Program in Social Work with a focus on Interpersonal Practice with Children Youth and Families with a minor in Community Organizing.
What was your experience like going to a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)? What lessons did you learn?
Attending an HBCU was by far the best decision I could have ever made. It was truly the best four years of my life. Being surrounded by such eclectic black people from all over the world was so amazing. I learned so much about myself in the process and it really shaped the way I view the world. We were one big family. My professors were awesome and I gained some amazing mentors along the way. I learned a lot about community and the power of black folk.
Akirah with her friend at the Traditional Reed Ceremony
What inspired you to get involved in activism, community development, and social justice?
I grew up in the city of Newark, NJ, and activism was all around me. My mom is and was very active in advocating for the rights of children and ensuring that they get a quality education, so I can say I got some pointers from her. What got me really involved in social justice was my involvement in the Sadie Nash Leadership Project. There I learned a great deal about feminism and being a change agent in my community. From that, I started a female empowerment group called "She is Queen" at my high school.
Akirah with her host sister
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I could give my younger self some advice I would say to include God in the process. I have grown so much spiritually over the years thanks to Him, but as a youngster, I attributed all of my success to my own hard work. I've learned that without Him I am nothing and that he has already laid my path.
You won the Fulbright Scholarship, in which you had the opportunity to teach English in Malaysia! What was your experience like? What did you learn from your experience? How long did you stay there?
Yes, I did. I was there for about 9 months back in 2015. I taught at SMK Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, a small school in the rural community of Lenggong. The experience was amazing and the people there really embraced me and took me in as their own. I loved every part of my experience there. From the classroom to visiting my student's villages on the weekend to my many opportunities to travel during holiday breaks. The culture there is so rich and the people are so warm. I can’t wait to go back to visit my students. I miss them so much.
Akirah teaching a student in Malaysia
You grew up in Newark, New Jersey! Did Newark inspire you to want to give back to your community? If so, why?
Yes, I live by the Dubois talented tenth. Not everyone will make it out of Newark but those who do have an inherent responsibility to come back and give to the community that has helped them to get to where they are.
You are now in the Peace Corps! What is your job and where are you located?
I am currently serving in Swaziland Africa as a youth development volunteer working in the Lubombo region (the hottest region in the entire country). I work with the community and schools to build their capacity. I am involved with both the male and female empowerment programs and am excited for what's to come. The youth here are so powerful
Akirah with her host brothers and sisters
What does black girl magic mean to you?
Black girl magic means knowing that you come from the greatness that we carry within ourselves and that solely because of that you are fearless. It's an innate freedom to be who you are despite what others think and to follow your heart first and foremost.
How have you coped with disappointments that came your way? What advice would you give to youth about overcoming adversity?
I am a very optimistic person, so I don't get down about much. I just count it as a part of the process and say well maybe God didn't have it in his plan for me to do that or receive that opportunity. If I could give advice I would say to enjoy the journey. Everything may not go as plan be but it's all apart of the process to build you to be the best person you can be. Never give up on yourself no matter what and be your biggest advocate
What advice would you give to college students?
I would tell them to stay focused and work your hardest from the beginning. I would tell them to try new things and meet new people. Your college years are truly the years where you find yourself. You're away from home and everything is new so find who you are outside of what you've been taught. Find what you believe in and be okay with change.
Throughout the past few months, I had the incredible opportunity to interview eight extraordinary women who are using their passions and drive to make a difference in their community and the world. I hope each of these amazing women continues to spread their black girl magic. Thank you for reading the Black Girl Magic Series! I hope everyone is inspired by these incredible stories. Please remember to never give up on your dreams, and always give back to others.
Zaniya Lewis (Creator of the Black Girl Magic Series)