By Hywania Thompson | Photography by Hillary Schave
To say Rosa Thompson has impacted the lives of young Black girls in the Madison area is an understatement. Thompson is the founder and executive director of Black Girl Magic Educational Services, an organization serving girls in fourth through eighth grades, who identify as Black, African American and multiracial.
In her day job, Thompson works as a new educator mentor in the Madison Metropolitan School District, which she attended as a student. Her husband, Alex, also works in the district as a middle school principal. They have three children — Mekhi, Aubrey and Aliyah.
Thompson began her career at the school district in 2009. In addition to her teaching duties, she facilitated Black girl affinity groups. From there, the Black Girl Magic Conference was born. The first conference was held in 2018 with 80 girls. Since then, it’s grown by leaps and bounds, serving more than 1,000 girls across Dane County. Throughout the pandemic, the organization provided virtual conferences and outdoor activities. Seeing that there was a need and interest for more programming, Thompson transitioned the conference to a nonprofit in 2021.
Thompson works alongside program manager Rachelle Stone, several youth employees and volunteers to put on Black Girl Magic Saturdays once a month. The girls take part in activities like making no-sew blankets, STEM lessons and cooking. Programs like this centered around Black girls are key.
“It’s important to feel comfortable in your own skin, it’s important to figure out who you are … in a place where you feel safe. [One in which] you feel like you can authentically be yourself,” says Thompson. “It’s a beautiful thing to see so many Black girls all together having fun, laughing, singing, dancing, joking and just loving on each other.”
“Rosa is just one of those people you connect with because she has a warm, genuine personality,” says Christin Calloway, who met Thompson 10 years ago. Calloway says Thompson’s ability to bring folks together is incredible. While Thompson’s impact is felt by each girl the organization serves, Calloway believes Thompson’s reach is further. “I think it goes beyond just the young girls but also families and connecting families with resources and advocacy,” Calloway adds.
Thompson is grateful for the volunteers and community support for Black Girl Magic Educational Services. In the coming year, she plans to strengthen collaborations with local organizations — specifically businesses and organizations owned by Black women — to provide more programming for the girls, as well as increase the number of employees.
Personally, Thompson wants to work on finding balance with work and family life.
“Being with the girls is rewarding and it’s fulfilling, and I need to practice what I preach,” Thompson says. “I tell them all the time — you need to take care of yourself. So, I need to make sure I do that as well.”