If little girls are made of “sugar, spice and everything nice,” then Brown girls are definitely made of foxy, moxie and magic—lots and lots of brilliant, glorious magic!
And it’s that message—that Brown girls are in fact magic—that 13-year-old Mikaela Sydney Smith hopes to spread.
Inspired by the book, Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul, Mikaela wanted to make a major impact on her community. So, two years ago, she started an organization called “Brown Girl Magic.” The organization seeks to make girls of color feel good about themselves from the inside out.
Brown Girl Magic was already doing some pretty awesome things to help girls build self-esteem like organizing efforts for young ladies to provide the homeless with socks and meals, but Mikaela still felt like she needed to do more. So she decided to take the magic up a notch by hosting the first ever, Activating Your Inner MAGIC Empowerment Conference and Mother/Daughter Dinner.
EBONY.com caught up with Mikaela and her mom, Kia Morgan-Smith, to learn all about the magic of being a Brown girl and why hosting a conference is so important to the mother-daughter duo.
EBONY: Mikaela, tell me what does “Brown Girl Magic” mean to you?
Mikaela Sydney Smith: Well, when I think of Brown Girl Magic, I automatically think of positivity, because that’s what Brown Girl Magic is. It’s for brown girls and girls of color to realize that they’re magic.
EBONY.com: Why do we need to help brown girls realize that they are magical?
Mikaela Sydney Smith: I feel like it’s good to remind them because in society Brown girls are not treated as equals. In my experience, when I go on acting auditions, I’m usually looked over because I have darker skin and my hair is curlier than others and I’m a little bit thicker than the other girls. I feel it’s good to build your self-esteem up. One of the main reasons I started Brown girl magic is because of the things that I hear. Brown girls always want their hair straight and always want to bleach their skin, but why? You are beautiful! I can’t say that enough to people.
EBONY.com: Mom, it is well documented through doll tests and a lot of other empirical evidence that Black girls often struggle with their self-esteem. How did you manage to raise a young lady confident enough to start a Brown Girl Magic movement?
Kia Morgan-Smith: Well, (laughs) it’s work because kids are kids, but somebody has to be the adult and somebody is the child. You just have to speak life into them and constantly talk to them. My husband and I have four daughters. It was about letting them know that they’re beautiful in the skin that they’re in and that they don’t have to change. I had to walk that walk and feel good about myself and wear my hair in its natural state and give myself positive love, even though I’m not a size 2. I let them know I love me, every day.
EBONY: How did you ladies come up with the idea to do a Brown Girl Magic conference?
Mikaela Sydney Smith: I just wanted to get all of the girls who know about Brown Girl Magic and even people who don’t to just get together and have a celebration and a sisterhood of positivity. So I was thinking, “What could I do to get Brown Girl Magic really going?” I was thinking aloud with my mom and said, “I want to have a little conference!” [After that] we started making plans. We got everything together and I’m just super excited for it.
EBONY.com: Mom, when your 13-year-old says, “I think I want to host a conference,” you could have very easily just said, “That’s nice, baby,” and let that be the end of it. What made you say, “OK, let’s make this happen?”
Kia Morgan-Smith: For me, it’s about allowing her to do something that’s going to not only empower her and make her feel good about herself, but it’s also going to have a ripple effect into the community with other girls who look like her. It was also a personal thing. I grew up in Southwest Philly and got bullied a lot. I got called black, I got called ugly, I got called bald-headed, I was beaten up all of the time and there were no adults around to stop it. I never heard that I was pretty. I never heard that I was beautiful. So I knew very early on that if I ever had daughters, I would do whatever it took to help them not feel ashamed of who they are. I wanted them to know that they were beautiful. So, when Mikaela started experiencing negativity over her weight and her hair, all of that hurt started percolating inside of me again. When she wanted to do the conference, it was a no-brainer. I said I would go broke trying to make sure that this gets put on because it means a lot. It means a lot to her and it means a lot to me.
EBONY.com: So tell me about this conference. What can attendees expect?
Kia Morgan-Smith: We have a lot of kids coming in [as panelists] who are doing great things in their own right. We’ve got Gabrielle Goodwin from GaBBY Bows. She has these little hair barrettes and she’s 10 years old. Mikaela’s going to do a Q&A with Rose Genter, who was the $10,000 winner on the cooking show Chopped Junior. Some of our vendors are kids, too. We have an 8-year-old vendor who’s selling bracelets. We have wonderful and powerful Black women like best-selling author, Denene Millner. We’ll also have Alasia Ballard from America’s Next Top Model. There is a “Don’t be a Bully” workshop, there’s going to be a vision board party and we’re going to have a moment of silence for the 14 girls who are missing in Washington D.C. So this is the time for us to sew into our youth and to show solidarity and that we care about our kids.
EBONY.com: Ultimately, what do you hope achieve through the conference?
Kia Morgan-Smith: A lot of times you have conferences and you get connected, but you don’t ever hear from [conference attendees] again. I want to create a network where we’re doing workshops throughout the year and [positively] affecting these girls. We’re going to different cities throughout the year talking and affecting these girls. They have somewhere to call when they feel down and have a hotline. We really want to develop and create this, so Brown girls can feel like, “I can pick up the phone, call Brown Girl Magic and they will listen to me.” That’s ultimately, in years to come, what we’re trying to establish.
Mikaela Sydney Smith: Well, I really hope they get to see how beautiful and how lovely they are. I know hearing your mom say, “Oh, honey, you’re so beautiful,” may not mean anything to you sometimes, but when it comes from a girl like you, I feel like it touches you more. I also really hope they get knowledge out of this and if they have problems, they learn the proper way to handle it. I just hope they leave there smiling.
The Activating Your Inner MAGIC Empowerment Conference and Mother/Daughter Dinner happens May 7, in Douglassville, GA. To learn more or attend, visit Brown Girl Magic’s website here.
Keep up with Sylvia Snowden at www.trulysylvia.com.