by Sharai Bohannon
I was a child of the ‘90s who loved horror movies. I was also a smart kid who realized early on that ‘witchcraft’ was code for ‘feminism’. While I didn’t have the vocabulary to call out that it was typically subscribing to white feminism, I was painfully aware that I never saw myself in the genre. However, I didn’t realize how much that got to me until I saw The Craft (1996) and witnessed Rachel True confirm that Black Wiccans exist.
Before Rochelle appeared on my TV screen, witchcraft seemed to just be one more thing we were excluded from. Seeing a beautiful Black woman rocking her natural hair texture in the genre, and making it to the end of the movie, was electrifying. Yeah, the character fell into the sidekick role. Yeah, they focused solely on Rochelle being the dumping ground for racism from the aspiring Fox News anchor at the high school. I understood this as a kid, and I was aware that it wasn’t technically Rochelle’s movie. However, that wasn’t my problem, as I tried to play “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” and began to rethink my stance on skirts. I wanted to be Rochelle.
After a childhood of wading through the oceans of white witches in the media, I finally saw a promised land where people who looked like me could be powerful, strong, and beautiful. I sincerely think seeing Rachel True serve in this role during my youth is why I’m so loud about representation now. Seeing her taught me that I can, and should, be part of the genre. With this one role, she signaled that I deserve to take up some space and be heard. She also planted a seed in my brain that magick wasn’t just reserved for white kids whose families could afford to live in the suburbs. Magick was for all of us, and no one was going to take that feeling away from me again.
As I got older, I learned more about how the character changed once True was cast – they shifted the character’s arc from an eating disorder to being attacked for her Blackness at school. I also found out that the scene where the four leads walk down the hallway with Rochelle in front was done for grosser reasons than what my innocent kid brain thought. The more that came out about the film – specifically what True endured for being the only Black woman in a film that had no legitimate reason for defaulting to an almost exclusively white cast – and I viewed it through the eyes of a supposed adult, the more I’ve found myself needing distance from it. I began funneling my gratitude for the existence of this character towards the woman that gave her life. Luckily, it turned out that True, who is still catching microaggressions from the audience and the people who made the film, is even cooler than the character she embodied.
After seeing True pop up in the Horror Noire documentary on Shudder speaking candidly about playing Rochelle, I sought her out on Twitter. As a Black consumer of media, I’ve learned to hold the people who inspire me as close as virtually possible. We lose so many Black icons who never get their flowers that I can’t take it for granted if they’re open to being thanked for what they’ve done for the culture on social media. While catching up on her upcoming projects I started to learn more about her and began learning how her experience with the film was as bad as most Black folks might suspect. These stories are common, and unfortunately shared, experiences among Black women. However, it’s a little extra depressing to hear the things most of us put up with for minimum wage happened to someone who should be treated as an icon.Or at the very least treated with the same respect as the other three leads of the movie. I was collecting these receipts and being salty that Black women are forever the most disrespected members of every group. I was also noting that the way True talks about these moments, that makes me want to throw my iPhone, is as someone who has healed. As a Gemini, petty is my love language, but I was here for this and studying at her feet yet again. I was telling myself that maybe, if I learned how to let things go, I could also stop the aging process like the goddess Rachel True did. Sadly, that didn’t work for me because I’m only motivated to do anything through spite.
While recording one of the podcasts that I co-host – also out of spite– one of my co-hosts mentioned that Rachel True had a tarot deck. The second we shut down our recording I hopped onto the internet to track down True Heart Tarot. I had been looking for a deck, because, after rewatching The Craft a couple of years ago, it rekindled that part of me that always wanted to investigate my intuitive side as a child. As a kid being raised in a Black home, by older Black people, this was not up for negotiation. I was lucky I was permitted to watch a movie about witches, but anything past that was an automatic “Hell no!” It felt like serendipity that the woman who played Rochelle and planted the seed in my brain that Black people could be Wiccan would also have a tarot deck waiting for me at this age when I’m trying to figure out what spirituality looks like for me. It’s almost as if True is forever being the cool aunt that is always holding doors open for all of us Black girls following in her footsteps.
After reading the problematic reviews from Internet Karens that are found alongside the beautiful images of the cards, I ordered it. When it arrived I cleansed my deck and began reading the guidebook that came with it. It’s very accessible for beginning tarot readers without talking down to us. I can practically hear True’s voice in certain parts, because of course she’d turn out to be an amazing writer on top of all of the other reasons I’m obsessed with her. The Major Arcana card descriptions also include personal essays about times in Rachel’s life that relate to the cards. Every essay is written in an honest, and often humorous, way by a woman that is more interested in telling her truth than getting caught up in the likability trap. I think it’s iconic, refreshing, and healing to hear someone you’ve looked up to own when she was in the wrong while also lovingly detailing how friends and exes failed her. Much like I didn’t know I needed to see her in The Craft at a formative age, I was unaware of how much I needed these stories, and the wisdom that comes from them, at this time in my life. I live for the YouTube interviews when True gets to talk about her cards. She lovingly navigates how Black and Brown folks are taught that tarot is evil when it’s actually something you can make part of whatever your spiritual practice is. It always makes me sad that I waited so long to commit to making it part of whatever my big-picture spiritual practice is going to be.
So, yeah. Rachel True rocks and we need to start putting more respect on her name.
Hopefully, if you see her on the Twitter streets, you will thank her for her contributions to the culture. If you were a Black girl in the ‘90s that went from 0 to 100 on the witchy scale after being introduced to Rochelle, you might want to thank her a few times. I sincerely hope all of the kids today who have more than 1 or 2 examples of Black girl magic are being told that we are forever in debt to our auntie goddess Rachel True.
She blew open doors by existing in a predominantly white space and taught us that we can too. She taught us that we are magick, we have a right to take up space, and how to march to the beat of our own song.
The least we can do is give her the flowers that she continues to earn by speaking her truth and keeping it real.
Sharai is a writer, podcaster, and procrastinator. She is a film and pop culture critic for various online magazines including The Everygirl, Dread Central, and her own Medium page. You can check out her podcasts A Nightmare on Fierce Street and Blerdy Massacre. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @misssharai.
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