Students at Southampton High School created the "Black Girl Magic Club" last year. The club encourages students of color and others to share experiences and talk about any prejudices they may face academically and socially. Credit: Randee Daddona

Southampton High School junior London Bess bounced between different schools after her family moved out-of-state when she was younger, something she believes gave her perspective when she returned to Long Island.

Now 17, the Shinnecock Reservation resident said she saw students of color didn’t have a safe space to connect, share their unique experiences and discuss sensitive topics like race.

So last year Bess pitched an idea to form a new club, a kind of “sisterhood” where students, particularly those who are Black and Native American, can meet to support each other and discuss ways to positively impact the school community.

It's called the Black Girl Magic Club.

“I think it’s really important to have a support system, as high school can be very lonely and just a hard experience to go through,” Bess told Newsday.

The teenager, who identifies as Afro-Indigenous, meaning she has both indigenous and African American lineages, said her vision grew in part out of her struggle to fit in at previous schools. Her family moved to Florida several years ago before coming back to New York.

Now in its second year, the Black Girl Magic Club includes more than a dozen students, including two who aren't Black. Bess said it was important for the club to be inclusive so everyone can feel welcome.

The club name pays homage to a popular social media hashtag but it is a grassroots organization without any national affiliation.

Natasha Jeffries, a special-education teacher at the high school, is the club’s adviser. She said the Black Girl Magic movement aims to push back against negative connotations that Black girls and women can face in America.

“It is something special to be a Black girl and so Black girl magic is just that,” she said. 

Sa’Naya Morris, 16, a junior who also lives on the Shinnecock Reservation, is the club’s vice president.

She told Newsday she felt it was important to push for minority students to have a larger voice at the school. The club has taught her she needs to advocate for herself and fight for what she believes is right, Morris said.

Jerry Halsey, 17, a Southampton junior, joined the club this year. Halsey, who is white, said the club has opened his  eyes to a new perspective, particularly about life on the Shinnecock Reservation.

Jeffries said the club members have been active in community service.

Last week, they participated in the National African American Read-In, which the National Council of Teachers of English launched in 1990. The club members were among high schoolers who read books by African American authors to students at Southampton Elementary School.

The club also recently received school board approval for a spring tour of historically Black colleges and universities.

“They are an amazing group … and they are very supportive of one another and they really have leadership skills,” Jeffries said.

The club also can serve as a springboard for students to take on leadership roles, according to the club's adviser.

Jeffries said two girls from the club joined the school’s Principal’s Cabinet, a committee that makes decisions for the student body. Bess and Morris also are members of the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force.

“It’s about making sure that they’re at the table when decisions are being made so that their voice is heard,” Jeffries added.

Morris said she thinks about her younger nieces and what the club can do to improve their high school experiences in the future.

“I want them to feel welcomed and feel represented and just know that they have a safe space,” she said.

Black Girl Magic Club

  • Gives Southampton High School students of color and others a safe space to connect and share experiences
  • Members do community service and are planning a spring tour of historically Black colleges and universities.
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