by Jessica Rosario and Chelsea Wilson
Just like any other 18 year old excited to embark on a new chapter of their life, two black teens from New York City couldn’t wait to see what’s to come and watch their lives unfold when moving into Middlebury College in Vermont. However, they were left in total shock when realizing how totally different the environment is compared to the richly diverse city they lived in their entire lives.
Courtesy of BLCKGRLMGC
Megan Job and Destini Armstrong sat down and created a podcast, BLCKGRLMGC, a hilarious eye opening take on racism in college campuses, hook up culture and their relatable experiences on being black girls in “little Ivy League”. Tackling uncomfortable topics with a humorous touch and cracking jokes, they also allow themselves to be vulnerable about their personal struggles adjusting to a new space that’s predominately white, imposters syndrome, and insecurities about fitting in. BLCKGRLMGC is your ultimate go to guide and your digital best friend, letting you know that “you need a lil’ magic when you’re a black girl enrolled in an elite predominantly white institution”. Sorjo chatted with the incredible ladies behind BLCKGRLMGC, Megan and Destini, on the importance of this podcast:
Jessica: Where did you grow up? How did this shape who you are today?
Destini: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. New York City is full of so much diversity, opportunities, infinite possibilities, and liveliness. To say the least, it has shaped my opinions and ideas to be open to many different cultures, perspectives, and environments. Growing up in New York City, I’ve become so used to seeing an array of different restaurants, deli’s, people, yoga classes, boutiques on one simple block. I couldn’t imagine my life without the MTA and the nights along the promenade in the city that never sleeps.
Megan: I grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn New York, which is one of Brooklyn’s most secluded neighborhoods. I think having only one train (the L) connect me with the rest of the city made me strategic at navigating and finessing getting to different places. I pretty much know the city like the back of my hand because of that. I also went to school far away from my home so that I believe made me a early bird. My school was about an hour and a half away so I woke up at 6am every single day in order to get to school on time.
Jessica: What was it like leaving New York and adjusting to Vermont, a predominately white space?
Destini: Leaving NYC to VT was one of the biggest transitions of my life. Leaving the noise, the subway, the tall buildings was quite the experience moving to the middle of nowhere, silence, the necessity of having a car, smell of a lot of manure and the briskest winters. Although, for high school I attended a predominantly white institution, coming to Vermont was like nothing I could ever imagine. It was challenging to figure out ways on how to navigate my way through an environment where the majority of these are extremely privilege, don’t understand what “hard times” could really mean and one’s who held the idea of having a token black friend to proof they weren’t racist. Going to Vermont definitely opened my eyes to the real world for sure and gave me a new perspective of what reality is truly like.
Megan: To be honest, it was by far one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life and I’ve been through some crazy stuff. I’m not saying that lightly at all. My schools were extremely diverse with whites, blacks, latinx, etc, so I did not think I would have a hard time adjusting because I had friends that were white. But I soon learned that the type of white people in New York City is very different from the type of white people that go to Middlebury College. The students in NYC were used to having people of color surround them so they were more aware of social issues because they were surrounded by people experiencing different cultures first hand. On the other hand, the students at Middlebury have been in environments with people that look, act, speak, and all pretty live similar lives so having someone with a different vernacular, socioeconomic class, and skin color is not something they’ve experienced like the white people in New York. And living with these individuals took a gigantic toll on my body and my mental, no funny.
Jessica: Where did the title come from? What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?
Destini: Black Girl Magic became a movement and a concept a few years back for black girls to finally feel empowered and to celebrate their power, accomplishments, worth and beauty. Due to societal norms, it’s always like the white girl is viewed as the “perfect” standard and all recognition goes to them. We live in a society that looks up to European beauty standards and that reflects on to everyone else and how they should represent themselves. Black Girl Magic to me means strength, resilience, and having the power to honor black girls’ intelligence, thoughts and worth regardless of skin color, weight, hair texture and more.
Megan: I saw a spoken word poem called Black Girl Magic by Shasparay Lighteard on Button Poetry in High School and the spoken word really resonated with me. Anytime I would see a black girl do something, I would refer to it as Black Girl Magic. The spoken word’s main point was that it takes a lot of magic to exist as a black woman and I’m feeling that the older I get. I truly believe black women are magical and it’s as simple as that. This world is designed to put both blacks and women down. Most of the black women in this country are also from a lower socioeconomic class which adds to the fire. The fact that they can influence others and events in order to navigate this world in their favor despite all the forces placed to keep them down makes them magical. Shout out to my mother, Michelle Obama, Lauryn Hill, Cardi B, and Shirley Chisholm. They all finessed the struggle and still manage to smile, raise children, keep a roof over their heads, and glisten when the sun hits their skin. That is hard work but nobody can tell me that’s not just a little bit of magic…
“I truly believe black women are magical and it’s as simple as that.”
Megan Job on the left, Destini Armstrong on the right.
Jessica: When did you realize you wanted to create this podcast? Where did the idea originate from?
Destini: The idea originated from one of Megan’s closet friends when she expressed that a podcast was a great way to speak about our life being at Middlebury. We realized soon after that the idea of a podcast would play as a great platform to speak about our experiences on this campus, but also to build a larger connection with audiences going through similar experiences.
Megan: My best friend and I had thought about starting a podcast about living in New York City as a teenager and how that shaped us as individuals. But then she moved to France and so did the idea (lol). Later, Destini and I found ourselves experiencing crazy things at Middlebury and we sort of thought, “Why don’t people talk about this?” “This is actually so insane.” I brought up the idea and Destini was like that sounds amazing. Then we got into a very big argument with some of the Black men at Middlebury about Black Love and the lack of it and they actually fought us on it and then we literally recorded the episode the next day because we were in awe of the ignorance that people have on that topic (Listen to Episode 5!).
Jessica: What were the reactions of people when you told them about this idea? Who were your doubters and who were your supporters?
Destini: For the most part people were very supportive towards our podcast and were for the idea of what the podcast had to offer. People found the idea of the podcast very needed and helpful for people currently in these situations to know they’re not alone, but also for incoming freshmen making their steps into these institutions to know what they should expect and know how to navigate these environments.
Megan: Luckily, a lot of people supported us especially the professors at Midd. We also have crazy amounts of support from both our friends at Midd and at home.
Jessica: Why did you feel that this experience of being Black at a predominantly white institution was worth sharing?
Destini: Although everyone can understand what it feels like to be Black at a predominantly white institution, no one truly knows all the weight and baggage that comes along with it. From the simple color of my skin to my socioeconomic status, each part of my identity adds to my experience being in these white spaces. It was important for us to share our life in these predominantly white spaces not only to reach out to others in similar positions, but to really understand what it feels like to not look like the majority.
“It was important for us to share our life in these predominantly white spaces not only to reach out to others in similar positions, but to really have being understand what it feels like to not look like the majority.”
Megan: Personally, I think that top schools in the United States are realizing how messed up it is to have a homogeneous population of students and faculty (white upper class individuals) so they are now having an influx of people from all backgrounds enter these spaces. The Posse Foundation is a program that helps this because there is evidence that supports that all people learn better in diverse learning spaces. Unfortunately, the social aspects [and] academic culture shock that comes with it, and more is not really addressed or I felt as though I was not aware of it. We’ve had young girls reach out to us and explain that they experienced the same things we have in their high schools and college which was comforting. I think its important to ensure that all the girls that are black, Latina, brown, and more know that we are all collectively going through it and it’s comforting to know you’re not alone. One of my favorite professors told us that our voice is the voice of the oppressed of the oppressed: A double minority. But that won’t shut us up.
Destini Armstrong on the left, Megan Job on the right.
Jessica: How do you feel about shows like Dear White People, that speak about similar issues such as those you experience every day on your campus? Are these realistic portrayals of what happens on these campuses?
Destini: These shows are needed because they do show realistic portrayals of what happens on these campuses. With shows like this receiving mass media attention it allows people to gain a sense of what minorities experience in these white spaces. Our podcast is meant to play a more personal role as we express more of our day-to-day experiences.
Megan: I actually have not really watched Dear White People and here’s the reason why: It’s scary to see it in front of me and also experience it every day. I know the show’s message is to give an insight to being black in social settings like Middlebury but to be blunt, when I sit down to chill out alone in my room I rather watch something like Power or Grey’s Anatomy that has very little to do with race.
Credit: Verge Campus
Jessica: Would you recommend students of color and minorities apply to these institutions? Why or why not?
Destini: Yes, I would recommend students of color and minorities to apply to these institutions because although it comes with a lot of hardship, strength and baggage, it embodies such learning experiences and prepares minorities for the real world. It is sad to say, but for minorities to be “something” in this world, we need higher education behind us to prove our worth. So in the end, these institutions help provide guidance and success. However, I would also recommend that minorities and students of color understand what they are in for and how life in like in these spaces are like before making these types of decisions.
Megan: Jesus, this is a hard question. I think it is very specific to the person. I think you need to be very determined in order to go to an institution like Middlebury. You will see white kids having fun, all your black friends at HBCUs or SUNYs living their best life and you will be in your bed studying for your next exam. I’m saying this because it has happened a lot at Middlebury. You need to be okay with the fact that college is not a place for fun but for literally working. That stuff you see on the movies is most likely not going to be your life at school.
“That stuff you see on the movies is most likely not going to be your life at school.”
My mother cannot afford college tuition and [I] was blessed with a full ride to this institution. Middlebury and its opportunities would open countless doors for my family and I so there is no question concerning whether or not if I should stay. I say, if you have the option to attend a diverse school and you can afford it, do it. I think people underestimate how much environments can mess with your mental. I’ve seen Posse Scholars and POCs in general hit really low lows and its scary because you’re sort of trapped. You need something to fall back on that pushes you to get back up. I’m there for my mother, sister, and my future. If I didn’t have that pushing me everyday, I would have dropped out the second Vermont reached -22 degrees and gone home, no funny.
Jessica: What did you want to get out of sharing this experience?
Destini: Through this podcast, we wanted to be able to share the “black experience” with our community. Although people who are not a minority can watch about racial discrimination, read about it and talk about, they will never fully grasp the day-to-day experience of being black in America. So, through this podcast, [in] the best way we could, we decided to make this podcast weekly making sure each episode involved our experiences and issues to put a face to the challenges of what it is like being black in predominantly white spaces.
Megan: I want to let the girls currently in high school who are about to enter this sphere to know that we are all going through it and not to let it get to you. There were nights I went to bed crying but I could turn to Destini, or my two Latina friends who were able to know exactly what I was stressing or down about. But what about the girl who hasn’t found her crowd yet? College can be a very lonely place but as a colored girl, it can really feel like the world is about to end. Like no one is listening to you or worse, no one is even looking at you. So I want girls to know that we are all going through it and that they can hit my line whenever and we can both benefit from sharing our experience. Its comforting.
With racial tensions bubbling in America, young black women can sometimes feel as though they can’t possibly make it. However, they are truly making a path for other young black women to take over the world with their powerful and revolutionary podcast. Destini and Megan is reminding black girls about their magic that lives in each and every one of them. Let your inner black girl magic shine by laying back with some tea and crank up some BLCKGRLMGC now! Check it out on iTUNES or SoundCloud.