The film may be an R-rated comedy, but the message runs deep.

Charli Penn
Jul, 21, 2017

“You have to work twice as hard to get half as far.”

It’s a saying Black people know and understand all too well. While it (almost too) neatly sums up the many complexities and challenges that come with being Black in America, there is an addendum I often like to add to it in my head whenever the saying comes up in conversation, and it goes like this: And, Black women have to love each other twice as hard to help each other go even further.

It’s our truth, and it’s exactly what makes our vast sister circles and lifelong friendships and bonds all the more meaningful and magical. Which means when a film like Girls Trip, which boasts an all Black cast and a beautiful lifelong bond between four uniquely dynamic women, comes to the big screen and showcases these friendships, Black women show up for it, laugh and cry along with it and embrace the message nestled neatly between the laughs.

The movie chronicles an overdue girls trip to New Orleans for ESSENCE Festival between four college besties who’ve allowed a little too much distance to come between them as they attempt to navigate their busy lives. Don’t be fooled by the R-rating or the fact that it’s a comedy—the types of rock-solid, dependable and amazing friendships among Black women that the film depicts are no joke. They’re beautiful and a necessary reminder of how integral our support systems can be to our success as Black women in this world.

As Black women in America, so much of how we must respond or react to our surroundings and those we interact with in our daily lives is nuanced, and therefore all the more challenging to work through and seldomly accurately portrayed onscreen. In life’s toughest moments, we turn to our friends and loved ones for the ultimate release, and you better believe sometimes that release comes in the form of a prayer circle or an anything-goes last-minute vacation, just like in the film. But the way we love each other goes far beyond shared laughter and selfies. Our girlfriends are like our sisters, our safe haven and our sanctuary.

Just like lifelong friends Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinket-Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish), I’ve both celebrated my sisters’ successes and helped them acknowledge and cope with their failures. I’ve cried with my sisters over unthinkable and sudden losses and shared their unimaginable pain, and together, we've made it through the fire and moved on with our lives. I’ve lent them my ear for hours on end to sit-in as a surrogate therapist as they dealt with everything from fallouts from micro-aggressions at work to misunderstandings in love and marriage and even some heartbreak. And I thank God that they've done the same for me time and time again. We’ve toasted to each other’s life-changing moments, collaborated to help each other create roadmaps for our careers and detours around sudden obstacles we face. For all of the love and effort that we've poured into each other, I know that we've all reaped incomparable rewards. Being "sister-friends' has made us stronger because we know that if and when we leap and fall, we will be there to catch each other. It has made us wiser, because we can be certain that six heads workshopping a problem together on group chat is far better than just one. We've become more successful because we are truly each other's biggest cheerleaders whether we win or lose. We've stood hand in hand, side-by-side through births, baby showers, weddings, funerals and beyond. We've always answered each others' calls and vowed to push each other to our limits in the name of growth and change. We don't take loving each other lightly, and I know that we never will. Watching the women of Girls Trip love hard on each other and show the laughter, resilience and gratitude that comes with girlfriends who do the same for each other is a phenomenal reminder of why it's always a good day to say cheers to our best friends, both new and old, and the value that they bring to our lives.

Films will always celebrate lasting friendships among women, wild nights of debauchery in the name of sisterhood and good times to cherish, but we don't see nearly enough Black faces driving home these points. Girls Trip aims to do just that, and we must let it. There is plenty of room for more positive images of beautiful Black friendships onscreen to counteract the ones we see playout on reality TV that most often represent only the bad and the ugly, but rarely the true good.

As Regina Hall's savvy, bestselling author Ryan puts it at the close of the film, "our girlfriends are our constant," and for that, we should be eternally thankful.

Charli Penn is the Senior Relationships and Lifestyle Editor at ESSENCE.com. Find her on Instagram (@CharliPenn)  or Twitter (@ManWifeDog) to continue the conversation.