So, What's This 'Carefree Black Girl' Thing All About?

Illustration for article titled So, What's This 'Carefree Black Girl' Thing All About?

As a black woman from Northern California, seeing other artsy African American women with natural hair and easy smiles wasn’t uncommon for me. That is, until I moved to New York where people responded to my grin by saying ‘You’re not from here are you?’ It was then I realized there was something to this creative girl of color thing, like a Zooey Deschanel but one who likes a good Young Jeezy song.


After ten years in Brooklyn, I can safely say that this borough, and the city of New York in general, is an explosion of my creative cousins and apparently we’re an Internet army. Jamala Johns, founder of the awesome Tumblr Le Coil — which posted striking images of black women and men — writes at Refinery29 that the creative army is actually called The Carefree Black Girl; ladies like Chiara de Blasio (with her hippie flower headband), Solange and her eclectic style and Janelle Monae's futurism are their patron saints.

Over the last 15 years or so, there’s been a heartening evolution in the works that I’ve been proud to be involved with. A while back, I launched le coil, a curated collection of natural-hair web finds and original photography. The more I worked on it, the more I started to realize that it was helping me explore a facet of the black female experience that went beyond just hair. I noticed that I instinctively leaned more toward more joyful expressions and regal poses, faces basking in natural light, and an overall tone that was warm, relatable, and encouraging. There had been countless conversations with friends where I lamented something along the lines of “I just want to see brown ladies having a delightful time and riding bicycles — and maybe having some brunch.”

As I written before on Jezebel, seeing someone who looks like you is a powerful thing for people, especially if your ethnicity isn't often represented or is marginalized in mainstream culture. If you see a woman of color enjoying her life, then so does someone else. That positive image alone can work to break down the harmful stereotypes that are projected onto black women and other women of color. And this movement isn't relegated to just the Carefree Black Girl website, other tumblrs and Facebook pages are directed at positive body imagery for women of color also, like Dr. Yaba Blay's Pretty. Period project that works to combat colorism and encourage little girls to see their own beauty.

Bust out your best not-really-matching-but-well-coordinated outfit and favorite hair styles ladies, it’s a revolution!

Images via Carefree Black Girl


Ari Schwartz: Dark Lord of the Snark

until I moved to New York where people responded to my grin by saying ‘You’re not from here are you?’

If it matters at all, I think this is just true of most transplant Californians in NY. My wife and I both got this in NY as well. We both grew up in SoCal, and were the people stubbornly wearing sandals and shorts in all weather possible.

I got out of my car to move a shopping cart so someone could park, and the lady who pulled in beckoned for us to lower our window. Immediately after our window was down, she said, "You're not from around here, are you?" We responded by telling her our Californian heritage, and she said, "Please don't change."

My wife was regularly told by her professors that she was a ray of sunshine compared to the NY natives.

Honestly, I think in a lot of ways the CA and NY cultures in general are just different. Obviously CA has some differences between various parts, but in general I've found Californians to be a sunnier (yes, pun intended, shoot me) bunch.

Edit: I should add that my wife's graduating class included a lot of UC graduates, and most of them heard the whole, "OMG CALIFORNIANS" thing at least once while in NY. My n is at least 15. This is some pretty good anecdata, so nitpickers beware! ;-)