Lanira Bledsoe

Photo credit – Lanira Bledsoe

By DEBORAH LUBANGA

Braided hair swings low and teased afros reach high in a certain corner of the Internet. Photos of young, African-American women of different shades, shapes, and sizes populate the social media landscape. Some women wear flower crowns as they pose in grassy fields. Others wrap colorful scarves around their heads in urban settings. All exude laughter, smiles, and dances. They frolic. They play. And above all else, they take joy in life’s simple pleasures. Filtered and unfiltered, these are the images of the #CarefreeBlackGirls.

The free spirit and whimsical nature of the Carefree Black Girl stands in stark contrast to the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman, which made headlines after a New York Times television critic used the trope to describe “Scandal”-creator Shonda Rhimes. This negative stereotype portrays black women as bitter, emasculating, and overbearing. Moreover, it is prime explain of why an MTV study found that nearly 70 percent of millennial minorities feel their race is poorly represented in the media. But rather than wait for the mainstream media to correct this issue, African-American millennials use social media hashtags to take matters into their own hands. “What [millennials] are doing is essentially reshaping the narrative and retooling the narrative so that it’s more inclusive, so that it’s genuinely reflective of their own experiences, and so that it’s more accurate,” says Meredith Clark, a journalism professor at the University of North Texas.

The exact origin of #CarefreeBlackGirls is hard to pinpoint. Topsy, a Twitter analytics site, dates the first tweet to early 2013; however Danielle Hawkins, a 19-year-old user of the hashtag, recalls coming across it on Tumblr in 2012. Inspired by the images she saw, Hawkins launched her Carefree Black Girls Tumblr that summer. It has since attracted close to 2,000 followers, many of whom submit selfies and ask questions. “The site became a celebration of black women all over the world, be it through history, current events, media, literature, and so on,” says Hawkins. “I felt like in a small way, I was doing something good for black women.”

Lubanga - Trend photo cfbg2

Photo credit – CarefreeBlackGirls.Tumblr.com

The typical post features “slice of life” pictures, such as women at the beach, drinking coffee, riding a bike. There are also images of female celebrities, such as Lupita Nyong’o, Kerry Washington, and Solange. The hashtag and blogs that grew out of it resonate on a personal level with young black women. Growing up in southern Mississippi, Tumblr-user Lanira Bledsoe, 24, didn’t come across many black women she could identify with. Moreover, based on her hobbies and interests, her peer labeled her of “acting white.” So Bledsoe says, “The hashtag is important because it shows young black girls and black women that it’s okay to be different.”

As the Carefree Black Girls movement celebrates the multifaceted experience of black women, it has drawn attention from media outlets, such as Jezebel and refinery29. BuzzFeed even created a 115-song playlist to welcome the “Summer of the Carefree Black Girls.” Hannah Giorgis, the 23-year-old behind the black feminist Tumblr Ethiopienne, refers to the Carefree Black Girl hashtag as a way to “talk back” and it seems the media starting to listen. And what do Carefree Black Girls like Giorgis have to say? “It’s a casual, ‘Hey I’m here and I know all the things y’all think about black girls, but I don’t care – I’m still going to be fabulous and you can’t stop me.”