Established in February 2015, The Black Women’s Project is a collective of black female university students who are committed to rebuilding the black female body. Founded by then-first-year PPE student at the University of Warwick, Jessica Agboola, the project has already earned one milestone and is set to mark another. In April, it was entered for the OZY Genius awards, for a prize of $10,000. Unfortunately, the BWP was unsuccessful, but they remain unfazed. With the new university year starting and a new website soon to be launched, we can only hope for bigger and better things from them.
gal-dem recently caught up with founder of the Black Women’s Project, Jessica Agboola, about her inspiration for the project and what she hopes to achieve in the coming year.
gal-dem: How did the Black Women’s Project come into being?
Jessica Agboola: The BWP was formed in the winter of 2014, and established in February. I had been reading a lot of literature regarding black people, and was specifically burdened by the plight of the black woman. What I read simply put a name to what I, and many other black women, were experiencing. It was like finding a diagnosis to a problem we’ve all had, and that was really encouraging. After attending some conferences, I learnt that at some point in our lives, as a migrant community in a European context, we will eventually hit the wall despite all our hard work, good grades and good job. And this, in a lot of cases, provokes crises and identity displacement that can lead to several mental health issues.
As I worked with academics, it seemed as though even when we, black women, pushed to get to our respective destinations of success, everything else violently pushed back against us, and this was not fair. I wondered whether black women would ever receive the fair treatment we deserved. So I set up The BWP. A project to assist black girls in university with their development and well-being, while remaining focused on all they wish to achieve at university and beyond.
What are you trying to do?
Audre Lorde once said that too many acts of violence have been carried out against the black female body, and these acts, spanning from FGM to micro-aggressions we all encounter, has damaged the body, making it unable to function optimally. This is unacceptable. The value, the perspective and the love and light we have to give and share is constantly abused and this is a heinous crime against the black woman and her body.
The goal of The BWP is to rebuild this body so that it can be whole again. We aim to do that by encouraging personal growth, introspection in our small talks, and our Big Sis, Little Sis scheme. Through these platforms, we hope to cultivate a confidence and an assurance of self that can be translated into the professional world.
Here at The BWP, we acknowledge the complexity of the black woman’s identity and see the beauty in the extent of our infinite diversity. However, under The BWP we all come together to focus on our greatest task – rebuilding her body. We believe that every black woman, of African, Caribbean and black descent, has a role in rebuilding this body by simply being her best self. That means investing in herself, being honest with herself so that she can grow and also being considerate of her Sisters, who are also growing and running their own races to their definitions of success.
You were up for an award a few months ago but, unfortunately, you didn’t get it. What did that mean for you?
The BWP is still developing, so we do not expect too much, and understand that at this stage not everyone will recognise its excellence. We know that what is meant to be will be and we are grateful for every opportunity that presents itself, whether we are successful or not. It is all a part of our growth and, most importantly, we have faith in our cause and know that great things are coming.
Now that the new school year is beginning, how do you hope to build upon what you’ve started?
We hope that we can encourage personal growth of old and new members further, whilst still focusing on the main task ahead: rebuilding the black female body.
Do you have anything big planned?
We are introducing new transitional programmes specifically for the Freshers. We are very excited about the launching of our website and the future opportunity to cement relationships with Sisters across UK universities.
How can someone who wants to support you help? (Particularly if they’re not a black woman?)
Firstly, we would ask for and appreciate your respect. We would ask for you to allow us to rebuild our body without encroaching or dictating how we do it.
Secondly, I, as founder, recognise the value of every single human being. It just so happens that I am a black woman of African descent who has identified and experienced an injustice that needs to be rectified. For this reason, the project focuses on black women. However, we value and welcome all people who are genuinely willing to step outside of themselves, and commit to the vision of The BWP. Nevertheless, with The BWP, the well-being and success of black women always takes precedence.
Find the Black Women’s Project here.
Their website is also launching soon.
Note: some answers have been edited for clarity. All images credited to Modupe Adegbembo and Ehi Anteyi.