Black Girls Rock is awesome for the mere fact that it creates space for the celebration of Black womanhood, Black girlhood, Black femininity and Black girl magic. The organization (and show), created by Beverly Bond, takes time to honor us on a grand scale and that by itself is incredible. Why? Because we do not get praised enough, and we’re chastised far too often. Beverly’s work is necessary, significant and powerful.
Last night’s Black Girls Rock show on BET had me throwing my handkerchief at the TV in inspiration. The 2013 Black Girls Rock show was amazing but this one stepped it up a notch. Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross hosted once again and they came out looking like HELL YES. Just unable to flaw.
This show was extra special because the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama got on that stage and loudly affirmed to Black girls everywhere that they matter, and they rock.
She took the stage and the first things she said is “Black Girls Rock. Let me say that again. BLACK. GIRLS. ROCK.”
She did that for the upper decks, the nosebleed seats, the haters and the naysayers. Like in case y’all weren’t sure who she is and what she is and how proud she is to be that. And I got my entire life. Because when is the next time we will have the wife of the leader of the free world boldly declare and affirm the value of Black girlhood? WHEN??? The fact that it might not happen again for a long time made me a little bit sad because I loved that moment so much and so hard.
Random note: The First Lady and I went to the same high school. SHOUTOUT TO WHITNEY YOUNG DOLPHINS EVERYWHERE!
But the entire show was a 2.5 hour highlight, especially because the speeches were incredibly inspiring. SO many quotables, and I transcribed most of them.
Janelle Monae presented the first award, which was the Rock Star Award. It was to Erykah Badu the Trill. Her music is the soundtrack of so many peoples’ lives and she is fearless in her vulnerability. And her music just goes so hard in the paint!
“I’d like to dedicate this award to my 5 mothers. My mother, Queenie; my grandmother, Viola; my grandmother, Thelma; my godmother, Gwen and Mother Nature. I would like to say to little Black girls who rock all over the world: the thing that keeps us going is our vitality. I subscribe to 5 doctors: Dr Sun. Dr. Nutrition. Dr. Exercise. Dr. Spirit. Dr. You.”
Erykah then came on a little bit later for a dope performance of “Soldier” and “Master Teachers.” I really liked that BET didn’t censor the song’s hook: “What if there was no niggas only master teachers?”
There are times when you know some things were meant to happen. The day that Human of New York’s Brandon Stanton stopped to interview a little boy named Vidal was one of those times. That is how we’ve all come to know Nadia Lopez (@thelopezeffect), principal of Brooklyn’s Motts Hall Bridges Academy. She was honored with the Change Agent Award and her speech was rousing.
“I wanna thank God for this day and appointed time. I also want to thank Beverly for your vision and conviction. To allow someone like me to even be honored. As women, we are constantly having to prove our worth, intelligence and having to fight for respect on our jobs, in society and many times in our homes. Ironically, when one of us women achieves recognizable success, we are taught to question the credibility of that success instead of expecting greatness and celebrating it.
The SHE that is great, whether recognized or not, lives in all of us. She is significant. She is heroic. And she is exquisite. God fashioned each of us with gifts and talents and abilities that I have been blessed to use. And I use them to empower children. So the daily question that I ask myself that I ask you is ‘What are you doing with God’s gift?’ How are you changing the world? And how are you making a difference in the lives of children?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to remind my scholars that learning is a lifelong process and the reason why we wear black and purple is because we are descendants of royalty and they are bound for greatness.”
Nadia’s passion for educating came out her pores and I’m glad to see her on that stage. Educators needs to be honored more because they do thankless work. I can’t wait for Taraji P. Henson to play her in a biopic. YOU KNOW YOU SEE IT.
Dr. Helene Gayle
Honored with the Social Humanitarian Award, Dr. Helene D. Gayle (@helenegayle) is a heavyhitter who has worked in senior positions for the Center for Disease Control, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is now CEO of Care USA.
‘My mother herself, who is a Black girl who rocks, told me “You have a good brain and a big mouth so use them.”… When girls and women gain voice, they become empowered. And when that happens, everyone wins: families, communities, nations and ultimately, our world.’
And she was WEARINGGG that cobalt dress. LAWD.
My bae Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) received the Shot Caller award, presented to her by Carmen Ejogo. You know she went up there and dropped many gems.
“When Black women make a film, it’s not an interpretation, it is a reflection and it is important to embrace it… You don’t have to be famous to be a star. We can be a star in our own lives, my sisters. Right where you are. When I’m feeling shaky, I just go into the leading lady stance, heroine stance. I hold my head up. I put my shoulders back. And I close my eyes and I think: Lights – that’s my spirit. Camera – that’s my mind. Action – that’s my life. Light. Camera. Action. Onward.”
YESSSS. And she was in this red dress that had me swooning.
Creator of Black Girls Rock, Beverly Bond (@BeverlyBond), took the stage to talk about why she does this work.
“I want to congratulate all of tonight’s incredible celebrants who represent the spectrum of brilliance that Black women possess. Your elevation in our culture matters because far too often, the breadth and depth of contributions made by Black women are pushed outside the margins of mainstream culture. In result, young Black girls don’t always get to see get to see diverse, layered and healthy representations of role models to emulate. I started Black Girls Rock to create a space where Black women and Black girls could proclaim our identities boldly and unapologetically.
Black Girls Rock is not just an ornamental phrase used to cloak ourselves in vanity. It is a critical and necessary affirmation… Saying that we rock is a response to the tremendous and neglect that Black girls feel when they grow up in a society where they were are misrepresented, underrepresented or completely overlooked. When they tune in to Black Girls Rock on BET, they get the message that Black Girls Matter.”
YES MA’AM, BEVERLY! Say ALLADAT. And say those words again!
First Lady Michelle Obama
The First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) graced Black Girls Rock with her attendance, and you could tell she was incredibly happy to be there. Her entire speech was a YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.
“I am so excited to be here at Black Girls Rock! To all the young women here tonight, and all across the country, let me say those words again: Black girls rock!
We rock! We rock! No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful, you are powerful, you are brilliant, you are funny! Let me tell you, I’m so proud of you. My husband, your president, is so proud of you. And we have such big hopes and dreams for every single one of you. Now I know that is not always the message that you get from the world. I know there are voices that tell you that you are not good enough. That you have to look a certain way, act a certain way. That if you speak up, you’re too loud. If you step up to lead, you’re being bossy.
When I was a girl, I had parents who loved me and believed in me but those doubts still worked their way into my head and my heart. I was always worried about something. Does my hair look right? Am I too tall? Do I raise my hand too much in class? When folks said a girl like me shouldn’t aspire to go to the best colleges, I thought maybe they’re right. But eventually I learned that each of those doubts was like a little test. A challenge that either I could shrink away from or rise up to meet and I decided to RISE.
I decided to rewrite the tired old scripts that defines too many of us. I decided that I wasn’t bossy. I was confident and strong. I wasn’t loud. I was a young woman with something important to say. And when I looked into the mirror, I saw a tall and smart and beautiful Black girl. And THAT, more than anything else is what I want all of you to know. I want that for you. I want you to live life on your own terms, according to your own script. Use those tests in your life today to make you stronger for the bigger challenges tomorrow. Because trust me those challenges will come.
Anyone who has achieved ANYTHING in life knows that challenges and failures are necessary components of success. They know that when things get hard, it’s not always a sign that you’re doing something wrong. It’s often a sign you’re doing something right. Because those hard times shape you into the person you’re meant to be.”
FLOTUS came to PREACHHHH and that was a word. Whew. Plus, she showed up looking like a tall glass of blessed and highly flavored chocolate milk in THAT DRESS. Chile, I LIVE. She is everything. EVERYTHING!
Jada Pinkett Smith
Will Smith showed up looking seventeen ways of FAHN! GOODT LAWDT. Whew. He was there to present his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith (@JadaPSmith), with the Star Power Award. Instead of reading what was scripted for him, he went off the cuff and talked from the heart. He talked about how he cannot imagine his life without her and it was adorable. When she walked on stage to get her award, they had this LONGGGG kiss and he cuffed her booty. THAT IS SO ROMANTIC! *swoons*
Anywho, Jada also came to drop some wisdom on the kids.
‘We are the women that marched from cotton fields into fields of medicine, politics, law, education, entertainment. We even found a way to march ourselves into the White House as the First Lady of the United States of America. And I say WE because it’s my belief that we do this together. Any achievement that any woman makes, is an achievement for us all. Any slight that any of us takes, is a slight to us all. And when we still have to read headlines in prominent magazines that the surge of people of color in TV may be too much of a good thing, we know we have a long way to go. This is what makes this night special.
We can validate each other and say you are enough as you are… As my little afro-futurist Willow tells me: “I am you. You are me. We are one.”‘
Mother Cicely Tyson was giving the Living Legend award and she is a walking life manual. She is the Grand Dame of Epicness. And HER presence is now charity.
“I was told I have 3 minutes to speak. Took me 3 minutes to get up here… To the young women here tonight: the moment anyone tries to demean or degrade you in any way, you have to know how great you are. No one is going to bother to put you down if you were not a threat to them. Respect yourself and the world will respect you. Respect elders. Remember that we are standing NOT on their shoulders but on their backs. We are the seeds of the work of our elders.”
YES MA’AM! I got chills.
Also, shoutout to the M.A.D. Girls who were highlighted: Kaya Thomas, Chental-Song Bembry and Gabrielle Jordan for their work as young innovators in tech, business and media .
* Sheila E’s drum slayage – Sheila E SNAPPED on the drums during the opening performance, proving that she still (and will forever) got it! There aren’t many prominent female percussionists and Sheila has been around for a long time and continues to slay. She had the whole place on its feet when she was done and I was at home fist-pumping.
* Jill Scott took the stage and sang the boots off You Don’t Know. That lady and her assortments of proper hairhats can sing the thesaurus and I’d be like YESSSSS. It’s not my fault. The girl brings soul into everything and I LIVE!
* Fantasia came with that GOOD squall. That child showed up and SANNNNNGGGG down with all she had. She brought it for the spirit, the saints AND the kids, and when she strutted off, I was spent.
* Estelle came on and sang “Conquerer” which you might have heard on Empire when she and Jamal did that duet. I love that song. If I worked out, I’d totally run to it.
Whew. This giant recap, doe. It was an amazing show as always. It was certainly tea for my fever and spirit fuel. If you missed it, check out the videos on the Black Girls Rock page on BET.com.