Black Girls Brunch Better. Black Woman Magic. Helping Black Women live their best lives. Black Women taking up space. Black women supporting black women in full force.
About Black Ballad
My first brunch of 2018 with Black Ballad’s ‘Black Girls Brunch’ left me full of mantras and affirmations such as these. Black Ballad’s first event in Birmingham brought together the new faces in the city, sitting black women from several walks of life amongst one another. I find that this is the essence of Black Ballad, a membership platform dedicated to supporting black women, to saying what needs to be said, creating the space that needs to be created. The event wasn’t what you expected when you give powerful and driven black women a seat the table. It was no pressure, it wasn’t about setting goals and making sure you busy yourself to the ground achieving them. It was a gentle reminder of what you were to be proud of and how you were to build and develop. It was an open space where we speak honestly about how we deal with life, managing the 9-5 life whilst being a creative, navigating spaces where you are the only black woman, where we in the west midlands go to have some downtime, have our hair done, get our make-up done. In fact it felt like the perfect slowing down in the midst of the rush in the new year.
We learnt about the things we had to look forward to throughout the Brunch. Black Ballad was founded in 2016 by Tobi Oredein who became frustrated in her early career as a freelance journalist and writer and decided to provide a platform for black women to write and be paid for it. Since then the platform, at the hands of black women, has become a pivotal aspect of Black British womanhood, a space to access and archive ourselves and be in complete control in how we are to be understood and received. Better still the membership platform means that the writings, musings and confessions of black women remain sacred, guarded and reserved only for those invested enough in us.
The event was held in the Alchemist. It was my first time in the location and the vibe was friendly, the drinks were inventive and the lights were low enough for spilling and sipping tea (in a less focussed brunch meeting perhaps). The food was honestly delicious, to the point of dismissed etiquette and comfortable silence amongst strangers as we enjoyed our meals. I sweated a little because the menu didn’t initially look vegan-friendly but I did eventually have the greatest avocado and mushroom open sandwich Birmingham has to offer. Black Ballad also organised the opportunity to select your meal beforehand so there was flexibility regardless.
One thing, usually when I attend events centred around Black women or blackness etc. the event is held in a separate room or separate space. Our reserved area was not out of earshot, we were not hidden in the corner, secluded and yet still we were speaking openly. Not whispering. Deciding that this will be our safe space. I think that is a shift which I appreciated, typical in Black Ballad fashion, it was intent on bringing our stories into a space of transparency and feeling no way about that.
Layout of the day
The day begins and I am having prosecco with or before my brunch which is a true marker of my turning 22 next month and which is the first marker of first-classness about the event. The table is set beautifully with name cards and self-written thank-you letters, a second marker of Tobi’s first-classness and additional badassness. Overall, we are all made to feel important amongst eachother.
There is no wasting time with the ice-breakers, I know the names of the people around me and whether they bought from black owned businesses, whether they have enjoyed a non-European holiday recently and their star signs and other covertly important things. After getting familiar, Tobi speaks to us about why we’re all gathered here in Birmingham and about her desire to make Black Ballad less London-centric. And better to be useful to Black women. After this talk we have our food and drinks.
After food and drinks we had a Black Girl Quiz. which my team won. (I am always on the winning team it is getting strange. My general knowledge will upset you and yet still, every time. it is probably my energy, i am probably just a winner). It was a bit of fun to break up the discussions and goal-setting and it launched a few discussions about a black girl pub quiz, with black achievement as the subject matter. Afterwards, we went around the table explaining one thing we are proud of from the last twelve months and let ourselves be celebratory and celebrated.
After we launched into natural and organic discussions about the most important subjects of the Brunch: us, the black women.
Black women will do what black women do when you put them together. We will discuss our community. At my end of the table, we were discussing the constant suggestion that black women must make space, opportunities and platforms for black men. See article here. We were confused that we even had to say it: “it’s not on me to do the work of black men”. We were discussing why platforms such as Black Ballad exist for Black women who are largely excluded from mainstream platforms. As creatives and voices. We spoke about our experiences as black women in higher education and how cities such as Birmingham give the illusion of being multi-cultural but the universities often tell a different story. We spoke about other things such as where black women go to get their hair done in Birmingham, the spaces they organise and operate in. We were limitless in our discussions and this is all that we need sometimes, the sense that we can be resources of knowledge for one another when we provide ourselves with the permission and the space.
Overall it was a beautiful afternoon. The location was classy, the food was delicious the drinks were too pretty to want to drink and the inspiration was up. It is very rare that I enjoy afternoon events that leave me encouraged to get my life together throughout the rest of the day. It is also rare that I leave an event which such a wide variety of networks, I connected with one of the few Birmingham-based Youtubers, mother’s, academics, lawyers, dentists, interior designers. This was the event to boost your confidence in yourself as a black woman as well as the achievements of black women being quietly excellent in your city. It was also a chance to get to experience the first of what will be an exciting year for Black Ballad. At the end of the event there was a general sense of ‘see you at the next event’ and there cannot be a more hopeful way to end. Black Ballad set the standard high for black women gatherings in 2018 and so there cannot be a more hopeful way to begin.