Bostonian Black Girl Magic


Throughout her long career, Elma Lewis showed a commitment to celebrating Black life through the arts. She held a firm belief in the capacity of the arts to bring about radical social change, and was deeply engaged in passing on this ethos to her students, collaborators and the Boston community at large. Her spirit lives on, not only with those who knew Miss Lewis personally, but also in the many Black women artists, activists and educators who are diligently working and creating in Boston and surrounding areas today. Read more about Boston’s #BlackGirlMagic below.


  • De Ama Battle

is an arts educator and the founder and director of Art of Black Dance and Music, a non-profit organization that works to preserve respect and pride for African culture in the diaspora. Her early years of dance were informed by her mentor Ethel Covan. A former student of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, she has studied and performed under the mentorship of several renowned master artists in the US, the Caribbean, South America and West Africa. Having taught at colleges including Radcliffe, Wellesley, and Boston Conservatory, this Cambridge, MA native continues to direct her 41-year-old dance and music company.

Watch her speak about her work on CCTV:

is an award-winning poet, author, freelance journalist, and organizer with Black Lives Matter Cambridge. She is also the Head of Operations at The Society of Urban Poetry. Her belief in the links between art and activism is clear in the organizing and advocacy work she does. She exemplifies the urgency of speaking truth to power.

Read her essay: Befriending Becky: On the Imperative of Intersectional Solidarity

is a Boston native trained in contemporary and classical theatre. So far in her professional acting career, she has played a dynamic array of characters, including Pecola in The Bluest Eye and her role in the one-woman ArtsEmerson production, Mr Joy. She also stars in the comedic web series, The Pineapple Diaries, which follows the life of  Afro-Latina Maite Lopez and her two friends Feliz and Catalina, living in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Watch her acting reel:

is a painter and collage artist from Roxbury. She studied ballet at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts as a young person, and attended the prestigious Shady Hill School in Cambridge. She went on to graduate from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work as an artist and curator is dedicated to sustaining contemporary Black art traditions in Boston. In 2016, she won a Caldecott Honor for her illustrations in the children’s book, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement (Candlewick 2015) written by Carole Boston Weatherford.

Visit the ongoing exhibit “The Art of Ekua Holmes” at Simmons College:

is an award-winning actress, writer, and comedian who was named “Boston’s Best Actress” by The Improper Bostonian in 2014. She completed her undergraduate education at Georgetown University, and has performed in several stage productions including An Octoroon, The Gift Horse, We’re Gonna Die, and Love’s Labor’s Lost. She is also well-known for her solo show, FUFU AND OREOS, which explores the humor and the drama of life as a Nigerian-American 20-something.

Listen to her talk about her latest production, Ole White Sugah Daddy:

is a Haitian-born and Mattapan-raised poet who attended Emerson College as an undergraduate. She is the poet laureate for the City of Boston, and has receive numerous other awards and honors for her poetry, including fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium and the Boston Foundation. She has published two poetry collections, The Dear Remote Nearness of You (Barrow Street Press, 2016)  and Maroon (Curbstone Books, 2001). She is a professor in the Creative Arts and Learning Division at Lesley University.

Read her poem, “I Can’t Breathe”:

grew up in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain learning the importance of the arts and advocacy from her parents. She is the founder and Creative Executive Director of the Boston Art and Music Soul Fest, Inc., a nonprofit organization that strives to break down racial and social barriers to arts, music, and culture.  

Listen to her speak about BAMS Fest on the Girl,Hi podcast:

is the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and 2015 National Poetry Slam Champion, and is widely known for her gripping spoken word performances. Her poetry examines various social injustices while also offering solutions from her perspective as a Black, lesbian, hip-hop feminist, and womanist.

Watch her perform her poem “Angry Black Woman”:

is an award-winning actor, storyteller, vocalist, writer and arts educator. Her repertoire includes the music series Women of the Village a celebration of the common voice of American, South African and Cuban women, and FOUR WOMEN: Nina Simone, a tribute to the legendary musician. Her many creative initiatives and accomplishments include The Elder Storytelling Project, which trains eldes to tell their stories to multi-generational audiences.

Watch FOUR WOMEN: A Tribute to Nina Simone

is a Black femme lesbian, sexual health educator, strategist and organizer. She began organizing in Boston at the age of 13, and her dedication to advocating for underrepresented communities continued to grow as she worked for the Boston Alliance of LGBT Youth (BAGLY), Fenway Health, and the Boston LGBT Adolescent Social Services (GLASS). Most recently, she has worked as the lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Boston, and is currently pursuing a degree in Public Health.

In this interview, she speaks about radical self-love and the movement for Black Lives:


Zoë Gadegbeku is the Communications Manager for the Elma Lewis Center. She blogs at


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