All posts by Ravynn K. Stringfield

Ravynn K. Stringfield is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at William & Mary. Her research focuses on Black women and girls in new media narratives that are fantastic, futuristic and/or digital in nature. She is also a dog mom, new yogi and hazelnut latte enthusiast.

The End of the Road | The Cookout (Season Finale) Recap

Well, dedicated viewers of Black Enough, we have made it to the season 1 finale, “The Cookout.” And it was just as vibrant as we could have imagined.

Taylor Lamb, Black Enough’s Digital Media and Marketing Producer and Meagan in the show, tweeted this short, sweet and effective summary of the finale episode of the season:

Everyone is getting ready for what appears to be the hottest party of the semester– the perfect opportunity for Amaya to show off her new look and all her growth over the course of the season. Viewers may believe that Amaya is still a wallflower from the way she glues herself to the wall at the start of the episode, but it just takes a quick exchange with Tryston to squash that notion.

After struggling to come up with something to say about Amaya’s new do, Tryston pivots to feeding Amaya some lines about where his head’s been recently and attempting to chart out a “future” that includes both of them– a move that makes Amaya recoil. And once she declines Tryston’s offer to dance, Amaya lets him go like the rest of her relaxed hair. It’s a decision that makes the viewer believe she’s on her way to shedding her doubts and insecurities, but is not crystallized until her friends pull her into the sea of dancers and she starts to let loose. Is it the same release she feels when she’s dancing alone in the studio? Maybe not, but it looks like our dear Amaya feels good.

Before we close, we get a glimpse of where some of the cast has ended up: Hadiyah appears to be studying under the direction of Professor Rekia; Ember is still on her weight loss journey, as evidenced by the green juice she’s drinking at the party; and Lena is pledging!

But this isn’t the only surprise “The Cookout” has in store– in the final moments of the episode, Amaya pulls a sheet of paper out of her pocket, faces Jaheem and says something incredible: she has feelings for him.

*

So what makes up a Black girl?

What are the ingredients?

It is confidence? Bravery? Strength? Love? A dash of cinnamon and brown sugar?

The answer: we don’t know. At the end of the day though, I’m not sure that it matters that we don’t know exactly what it is. As I said in my interview that was featured in this episode, “I tried.” And Watson tried. And all of the fabulous women interviewed, the cast and crew tried to articulate the magical essence that is Black girls and as LaToya Fox Obasi describes, we’re all part of a picture, and it’s the togetherness that makes the magic.

I believe they were successful, but I think they were successful not because they tried to articulate an end product necessarily, but because they found love and magic in every part of the process. You could see it come through and shine in every episode.

So no, it’s not one thing that’s easily communicated or packaged (though we use the Black Girl magic hashtag every day). We may never know exactly what comprises Black Girl Magic because every individual Black girl also has her own specific brand and it’s hard enough to try to understand the essence of ourselves, let alone the many.

But still…I’m happy to keep chasing, discovering and learning my magic every day.

Further Reading:

Read Black women’s work. As much as you can.

You’ll find magic. I promise.

Ravynn K. Stringfield is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at William & Mary. Her research focuses on Black women and girls as creators and protagonists of futuristic, fantastic and digital narratives in new media. She often likes to say she writes about Black girls flying. When she’s not researching, you can find her writing for her blog, Black Girl Does Grad School; learning new yoga poses; or bullet journaling.

The Big Chop | Beneatha, 2019 Recap

In the penultimate episode of Black Enough’s first season, “Beneatha, 2019,” Amaya has finally worked up the courage to do what has been on her mind since she first concocted the idea of a Black Girl Magic Potion in episode 1: The Big Chop.

For those that are unfamiliar with the term, The Big Chop refers to the haircut one gets to go from relaxed hair to natural. The Big Chop comes in a variety of packages. Some folks transition for a few months (or a few years) before cutting off their relaxed ends; some make the decision and the hair is gone days, even hours later. Some people go into salons, and some do it themselves in the bathroom mirror.

The reactions to chopping one’s hair is equally varied. It stirs up feelings of joy, release, anxiety or shame– sometimes all of the above and more. As Watson has explored over the course of this season, there is a lot of value and significance tied up with Black hair. It was never just hair. And for some of us that eventually undergo the Big Chop, we do so because we realize that we have little or no memory of our hair in an unaltered state. Though it’s unclear from the narrative, one might assume that Amaya falls into this camp.

As she waits for her turn in the salon chair, Amaya pulls out Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo to read while she waits. This choice is all too appropriate. Amaya is about to undergo one of the most important, most magical transformations of her life, and she holds in her hand a book about and made of magic. (Remember that first line: “Where there is a woman there is magic.”) Shange’s novel, like much of her writing, weaves together forms and stories to create Black women’s narratives so that we aren’t run into the ground under the weight of the narratives society tells about us. It pulls together pieces and bits to create something new, much like how Amaya has been quietly adding and crossing off ingredients to her Black Girl Magic Potion over the course of the season.

The salon becomes a cocoon, an incubator, for Amaya, as does the book. Both are spaces of retreat and refuge where one might turn inward, but also that of unbecoming in order to transform. When Amaya steps out of the salon, she is not, and cannot be, the same person she was before.

And that feeling of knowing that you can’t turn back is heavy. It’s mixed with things you didn’t even know you could feel. Amaya has to sit with the realization that she is different, the feeling of not immediately recognizing yourself when you look in the mirror– and dealing with why that is.

Anyone who has ever Big Chopped knows the struggle. It’s that awkwardness of trying to make your outward appearance match what’s going on in your head and in your heart. It’s that discomfort of stepping out what you knew and into the unknown. It’s the realization that you’re going to have to learn yourself all over again.

It’s all of that and more.

It was never just hair.

Further Reading

Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo by Ntozake Shange

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry

“My daughter is the reason I wear my hair curly,” Taylor Harris, Washington Post, Feb. 2017

Ravynn K. Stringfield is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at William & Mary. Her research focuses on Black women and girls as creators and protagonists of futuristic, fantastic and digital narratives in new media. She often likes to say she writes about Black girls flying. When she’s not researching, you can find her writing for her blog, Black Girl Does Grad School; learning new yoga poses; or bullet journaling.

Black Love Night | The Funk In Your Right Recap

Who was your first love? Episode 11 of Black Enough, “The Funk in Your Right,” takes up the question as Amaya and the crew attend BSU’s “Black Love Night.” The event features artistic expression around the theme of Black love. Judging by the expressions on several of the audience members faces, the first performer we’re introduced to (“Zora Assata Baraka X”– admit it, you giggled) is a little lackluster, so expectations are low.

But when Nora Obi (played by guest star Hanna Watson) takes the stage to perform a spoken word called “Second Love,” a whole new world, full of new relations and wonder, unfurls before viewers’ eyes. While many in the audience are enraptured by Nora’s words, Amaya begins to curl into herself, literally and figuratively, seemingly attempting to distance herself from the rush of emotions Nora is awakening for her. Ember and Jaheem are appreciative of the performance, but Dre takes the opportunity to steal glances at his ex, Hadiyah– even though his current girlfriend is using his shoulder as a pillow. And before the performance even begins, Tryston responds to an inquiry about Amaya from Dre (“That you?”) with, “Somethin’ like that.” The map of relationships between characters has gotten messy in a matter of minutes, all thanks to Nora’s mastery of wordsmithing.

The episode is bookended with interviews from both Kemi Layeni and Freda Assuah. Kemi discusses how her expectations of college and love were shaped by the popular show A Different World. And in truth, what Black college student who watched A Different World before or during college didn’t have unrealistic expectations about what the undergraduate experience would hold for them? (While ADW had a profound impact on my expectations of love, my parents meeting at ages 5 and 6 was the relationship that really shaped my ideas about love.)

This episode also calls back to a moment from over four years ago for me, from the first Black Monologues at the University of Virginia. The script included three Love Letters, written by Black women in the cast and crew, to their loves, one night stands, and to Black men at UVA at large. Four years ago, I remember watching friends perform Love Letter Number 1, which was written by my now dear friend, about her Black Love, and this September, I had the privilege to watch those two embark on a lifetime of adventures together in marriage.

Watson’s long standing interest in depictions of Black love do not stop at romantic love. They also involve friendships (“Celie’s Rites” and Canaan [2018]), love of Jesus (a thematic arc through all of Watson’s work), and love of self, as we see in the final interview of the episode with Freda Assuah. Assuah reminds us that coming to self-love is a process, a practice that is often learned and cultivated.

Black Enough does a beautiful job grappling with all of these different layers to love over the course of the season, and in this particular episode. What is striking is that all of these components are equally important, no one overshadowing the other, working together in harmony. It points to the multi-faceted and complex nature of us as Black folks, as humans, and allows for us to be and feel everything all at once with no fear.

 

Beautiful Quotes from “Second Love”:

  • “But in dust he saw soil/where he could he plant himself and grow his whole world”
  • “See the earth is heavy when you don’t look to heaven”
  • “Love who sees all of me and stays anyway”
  • “Will you beatbox to my heartbeat when you think of me because you know my rhythms?”
  • “Beloved, be loved by Him”

Further Reading:

Hanna Watson, The Poet

Love Jones (1997)

A Different World (1987-1993)

Feminista Jones’ sex and love column at Zora Mag, XOXO”

Ravynn K. Stringfield is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at William & Mary. Her research focuses on Black women and girls as creators and protagonists of futuristic, fantastic and digital narratives in new media. She often likes to say she writes about Black girls flying. When she’s not researching, you can find her writing for her blog, Black Girl Does Grad School; learning new yoga poses; or bullet journaling.