“When are we gonna start the discussions?” Nichelle asks impatiently as the rest of us stuff our faces with chocolate-filled crescent rolls and blue Sour Patch kids.

All bras are off for the night, and all hair is securely fastened in bonnets. Everyone is talking at once, and even though our bedtime isn’t until the sun begins to rise, each of us has already claimed her sleeping territory.

We are at a sleepover. We are grown-ass women.


Looking back, I never minded being the token black kid at an elementary school filled with mostly white and Chinese students.

At times, I think I even preferred it — it was just one more thing that made me feel special. This isn’t to say that I was exempt from typical 9-year-old token black girl frustrations (like not being able to wet my hair at slumber parties and feeling uncomfortable when my peers would ask me if I was related to MLK), but overall, I was fine. I thrived both socially and academically.

In 1996 or 1997, I started dancing on a praise team at a small black Pentecostal church, and I made a new group of friends.

This began sleepovers every summer and winter with the other dancers in the group, a tradition that we continue to this day. During the early years of our sleepover tradition, since we saw each other four or five times during any given week, our sleepovers always felt like a capstone of sorts, celebrating another successful few months of being friends, of dancing, of going to middle school, to high school, to college.

All photos by Kenzie Kate Photography, used with permission.

These days, we’re lucky if we even see each other every other month. Our sleepovers have shifted into something equally fun but more intentional, weighted with a more tangible significance: a time to celebrate weddings, babies, and career moves. A time to cry about failures, losses, and relationship mishaps.

"Discussions" are inevitable these days, too — lengthy and usually heated conversations about everything from relationships and dating to politics and corporate America. These discussions have become a highlight of our adult sleepovers, second only to quoting "Mean Girls" in its entirety.

All of this is to say: Having black friends is important, y’all.

This may seem like a given, but it’s something I didn’t realize until fairly recently during our last sleepover, when we were time-traveling and laughing about stories from our almost two decades of knowing each other.

Growing up with a solid group of black women as friends has empowered me in ways that I am still discovering. Here are a few.

1. It is important that black women have a space where they can be angry black women without being labeled and written off as an angry black woman.

I am afraid of being a stereotype. In non-black circles, I overcompensate often: I speak of my love of country music and swimming, I enunciate well and emphasize my i-n-g’s. I limit saying anything that could be interpreted as me using the (non-existent) race card. I fear being labeled an angry black woman.

But at our sleepovers, the subject matter is always candid and nothing is off limits. We make our disapproval for someone’s significant other known, we debate the perks and downfalls of going to a historically black college, we talk about black men dating white women, we talk about why we should move to Atlanta, we talk about why we should not move to Atlanta. We don’t have sidebar conversations. If two people are arguing, we are all there. If someone is crying, we are all there. And we know that no amount of yelling or arguing or ranting or tears could ever make anyone else in the room doubt our intelligence. We know that we are all smart.

2. It is important to have a space where you don’t feel like you are speaking for the entire African-American population.

Whether in corporate America or in a university classroom, as a black woman voicing an opinion, you are speaking for all black women (and sometimes black people) everywhere. People will take your opinion as truth: as "the black perspective." I have been asked to give "the black perspective" on multiple occasions. That is a LOT of pressure. I do not know all of the black people in America. Yes, I have insight into a black perspective, but too often, people mistake it as the only black perspective.

On many past occasions, as a result of being the sole black perspective, I have failed black people. When given the mic, I have been quick to say the easiest thing, to make the people around me comfortable, to manipulate the truth, to not be the downer in the room. When I’m with my girls, I am only required to speak for myself. My opinion only belongs to me. There’s so much freedom that comes with that.

3. It is important to have a space where you don’t ever feel like you’re talking about race "too much." It is also important to be in a place where wearing a scarf to sleep is the norm and ain’t nobody wettin’ their hair.

Whether we like it or not, hair is a big part of young girls’ lives in America, no matter what race they are. Your hair feels like your beauty, and your hair feels like your identity. As a little girl with barrettes, as a preteen with cornrows, and as a high-schooler with braids, it was my truth. It was all of our truth.

On the playground, I remember the envy I felt watching all the little white girls put their hair up in ponytails to play soccer and then taking the ponytails back down and splashing some water in their hair to go back to class. It was magic. My hair had to stay in its four ponytails, hair balls hanging on ends, lest I receive a beating when I got home. My hair was not magic.

But on Saturdays, as we’d prepare to dance at church on Sunday morning, my mom ran a pressing comb through all of our heads, gelling down our kitchens, changing afro puffs into curly ponytails and loose edges into defined twists. Our hair was magic.

Even still, as adults, we revel in each other’s hairstyles: the bobs, the braids, the afros, the twists, the locks, the ongoing discovery of how our hair can shape shift into something else. Our hair is magic.

We are magic.

Growing up with black girlfriends meant growing up surrounded by mirrors: reflections that looked just like me and constantly showed me who I was and who I could be. They were mirrors that knew me for me and constantly reminded me that I was magic.

We don’t see each other four times a week like we used to, and our phone calls and text messages are sometimes far and few between, but we hold on tightly to our bi-annual sleepovers, because we know that we need each other to survive in this world.

Black women need each other in this world.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.