Fahima Ife, an assistant professor of English education at the University, was raised by a single mother in southern California. She became an avid reader at a young age, but it wasn’t until the ninth grade that she was able to identify with a Hispanic character for a class reading.
“At a very young age, I always knew that there was something very powerful about reading and writing,” Ife said. “By the time I got to middle school, I was already so frustrated by the fact that I was reading all these texts and I didn’t see myself in the literature.”
Ife moved to Baton Rouge in August. While she teaches courses especially for English education students, she continues her research on girls and women of color and how they have experienced momentary joy and freedom throughout time.
Ife’s research ties into the ENGL 3674 course she will offer in the spring, entitled “Black Girl Magic: Across Time and Space.”
Although the Black Girl Magic movement has only existed since 2014, Ife said she has wanted to teach this type of course for nearly a decade. She was inspired by “sister circles” — women of color who gather to support, empower and uplift.
Through her course, Ife wants to create a safe space for college women of color to “allow their soul to come out without any limits.” Ife said women of color have been stifled and fed doubt their entire lives.
“Sometimes when we’re in a moment, we don’t even realize how powerful it is. But there has never ever been a movement that centers on black girls, ever in the history of the United States,” Ife said. “I just feel like it’s worth pausing over and to honor this time and to actually have a course where we’re trying to figure out, ‘What is black girl magic, aside from this hashtag?’”
Each class will be dedicated to a single woman of color, including Alexis De Veaux, Solange Knowles and Alice Walker. Ife plans to combine music, film, literature and dance to explore the idea of Black Girl Magic and how it can be seen in different forms, time periods and women.
The course has been promoted through fliers, chalk drawings, word of mouth and social media. With over 70 retweets and likes on Twitter, the course flier is sure to catch students’ attention.
Along with a course description, the flier contains a large, vibrant photo of a young black woman with her natural hair styled in two ponytails. Over the ponytails, artist Pierre Jean-Louis blended an image of a galaxy with her hair to express the beauty he saw in black women’s hair.
Ife said she intentionally chose that particular image of the black woman. She knew using a natural haired black woman with a straight expression, bamboo earrings and galaxy hair would provoke thought for all who saw it. By using this image, Ife said she hoped to attract women of color whose interests aligned with the course.
While the course is full for the spring 2017 semester, Ife said it will not be the last Black Girl Magic class she will teach.
“This notion of Black Girl Magic, I don’t think it’s linear, I think it’s all across time and [although it’s taking place in] this moment, it will continue,” Ife said. “I think it will definitely continue beyond our lives...even if someone’s calling it something different.”