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Erika J. Kendrick on writing Squad Goals

Magic, New Horizons, and Experiences

Even before Beyonce asked us if we knew who ran the world, I’ve professed that it was girls – all girls, even those who haven’t stepped into their divine purpose and discovered their unique magic yet. They are my favorite; championing their voices has always been part of my personal and professional ambition. Writing Magic’s story is no different. Her journey has resonated with me for over a decade, developing texture and nuance with each pirouette and toe touch along the way. She is a familiar character; one I’ve had the honor of knowing, and the challenge of being, at various stops on my own journey.

I know all too well how it feels to be average. Invisible. And twelve. But being on the cheerleading team was a cathartic experience for me, one that eventually shifted my trajectory. Like other girls, I faced the middle school monster of fitting in, of being accepted, of simulating cool. And while most were wishing on a shooting star or a fallen eyelash, I wished on my prized pom poms, imagining a world where they could gift me the bright light to twirl from the back of the dance line and finally shine. The precious poms would help create an inspired world where I’d be good enough, epic enough, and lauded as an enviable dancer. In this magical world, I’d share the sparkly shine with my friends, and we’d walk into the locker room and be seen, our quirks the fabric of the newest trends. We’d be the stuff of record-breaking hashtags. And just like magic, during the summer months before my seventh-grade cheer season, my wish came true. I catapulted into my promise, setting and achieving goals that were instrumental to my growth as both a cheerleader and a young woman. The magic of perseverance and dedication to the sport was the catalyst to an incredibly dorky, semi-nerdy girl graduating to a competitive high school and college dance team and eventually going pro to cheer for the Chicago Bulls. Magic represents that girl, the one at a critical developmental stage dealing with acceptance and rejection, exploring first love and seeming hate, and managing euphoria and despair. She is the quintessential girl at a tipping point – and I am inspired by her.

As a writer, my primary goal is always to shift the trajectory of young minds and create a pathway for a more equitable and tolerant tomorrow. Generational stories of triumph, carefully selected history books, and prolific teachers who professed the truth about African American stories engaged me throughout my formative years. I believe in the power of the possible and writing for children affords me the opportunity to shape ideologies about the world in which they live as they explore new horizons and experiences. Diversity in children’s media is critical to their intentional reflection about the spaces we create as writers. Not only does this inclusion validate everyone’s existence, regardless of race, religion, and even height, weight, or hair color, but it also normalizes differences and quite simply, shows us all what is truly possible.

Beyonce also sang to us about surviving and about being flawless in our own skin, all while exploring the narrative that girls, in fact, run the world.  All girls. And as they prep to reach for their goals, especially those heading to auditions in hopes of donning the coveted uniforms and glittery pom poms, Magic’s story resonates on a visceral level for each of them. She demonstrates that confidence, self-esteem, and stick-to-itiveness are transformational, regardless of where you stand – on the sidelines or criss-crossing the field cheering for the hometown heroes. She reminds us all to be diligent in our quest for authentic self-love. Her rise and fall, and then her epic rise again, empowers and motivates us to discover our own authentic truth. I’ve gotten tremendous thrills penning her adventures and exploring the realization that there’s a bit of Magic in each of us; all we have to do it believe.