VanguardxAfripop #BlackGirlNetwork at Social Media Week Joburg

By Vanguard Reporter

One of the most important debates of the evening, was around the name of the event, which was initially ‘BrownGirlNetwork’. The contention was around the use of the word ‘brown’ as opposed to ‘black’ when this was a space created specifically created for what in South Africa is termed ‘black African’ women. 

On 22 October Vanguard joined forces with Afripop Magazine to host the first #BlackGirlNetwork dinner (originally called #BrownGirlNetwork) on the sidelines of Social Media Week Joburg. The event was held as a way to bring together the dynamic and high-achieving young women from South Africa, the rest of the continent and the African diaspora (including the US).

Guests including Luvvie Adjaye. of Awesomely Luvvie, Britni Danielle, Lola Pedro, Regional Director of Trendwatching Africa, and Sherri Robinson, the director of Social Media Week Joburg.

The first question asked “What does it mean to have a network of black girls who support each other?” A network  meant one where people could give support, leads and access to new opportunities to each other. For Zokwanda of the Steve Biko Foundation,  this meant a diverse network –  it had to be inter-generational and inter-industry.

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With regards to diversity and specifcally, different geographies being represented, the issue of representation and privilege was important. Attendees found that when speaking of the ‘global African voice’ very often the African-American, followed by the ‘diasporan’ African voices were privileged over the ‘local African’ voices, an issue closely linked to resources.

Nonetheless there were many parallels found in the various African experiences. The experience of many of the attendees was that part of the difficulties in forming the networks with other black women in professional circles is the sense that the black women would be ‘penalised’ for it by being seen as ‘exclusionary’ and ‘militant’. Even without this, there is the perceived and real issue of a lack of opportunities which often lead to ‘ladder-kicking’.

When networks are formed they often create ‘cliques’, which many in the room felt was not necessarily a bad thing, they were nonetheless an important start to beginning networks.

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With regards to supporting black business many in the room agreed that at times, even when the intention is to support black business, there are barriers such as low quality of service, payment issues and a lack of respect for other black people. An important solution discussed was that giving feedback to both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is an essential part of helping them improve so that we can use them without the risk of non-delivery. At times, ‘tough love’ will be a necessary approach.

One of the most important debates of the evening, was around the name of the event, which was initially ‘BrownGirlNetwork’. The contention was around the use of the word ‘brown’ as opposed to ‘black’ when this was a space created specifically created for what in South Africa is termed ‘black African’ women.

The rationale for Vanguard and Afripop was that calling it ‘Brown’ was an attempt to depoliticize the network and allow the group not to have to focus on questions of exclusion, but rather on the work of building.

To this the question “Why should black people everywhere be apologetic about creating their own spaces?” was asked.

In the end, it was agreed that the politicization of the group would come whether or not the term ‘black’ was used. The event is now unapologetically FUBU (For Us By Us) and named the #BlackGirlsNetworks

Important take-aways for building networks:

  • Creating groups on social media makes a world of difference to networks
  • Tough love is sometimes neccessary to get better results
  • Giving feedback is an important of helping each other improve
  • It’s important to remind ourselves that it’s not always a zero sum game, more often than not, if those in your network move up, so do you!

The next event is scheduled for the last week of October, more details to follow

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