The Gap just dropped an ad on how girls can do anything, featuring a Black girl who is being used as an armrest by one of the white girls. Kirsten West Savali wrote an amazing piece on The Root about it. Read: The Price on Our Heads: New GapKids Ad Sparks Racially Charged Controversy.
This is the world we live in. It spends far too much time and effort demeaning Black girls, even inadvertently. We are constantly told that we’re not enough or worth protecting or celebrating. This is why BLACK GIRLS ROCK, created by Beverly Bond, is doing priceless work.
People get all butthurt about us celebrating ourselves. I wrote about that earlier this year too. The hateration in Black girls’ dancery is so real outchea, yo. So this show is one that I do not miss watching every year.
Every broadcast of Black Girls Rock has me feeling full and proud to see women who are standing in their purpose and being bold without constraints. The quotables are plenty and the entire thing is one long highlight.
Tracee Ellis Ross was back as host for the 2016 Black Girls Rock! show, and she kicked it off in a red catsuit. She did a tribute to a bunch of musicians, including a piece to her mom, Diana Ross. She threw on a wig and glided across the stage and I howled. Tracee is super underrated as a comedian. The lady is hilarious. She also rocked a hat in tribute to Queen Latifah, doing U-N-I-T-Y. She got in Formation for Beyonce too.
Also cool? My girl Franchesca Ramsey (Chescaleigh) wrote her intros and pieces for the show. YESSSSSS!!! Outchea prospering. I love it.
But yeah, every speech by the award recipients had gems in it. They were like 3 minute TED talks.
Danai Gurira won the Star Power Award for playing Michonne, a sword-wielding, dreadlocked bad ass on Walking Dead. Also, she is an incredible playwright, and she is making history with Eclipsed, which is on Broadway. It’s the play she wrote, starring Lupita Nyong’o, about the lives of women during the Liberian Civil War. I just saw it last week and it’s incredible.
Danai is an actor’s actor and she is ensuring that she isn’t just the vehicle for other words. Her gift as a storyteller will make sure her work is out there, even when she isn’t in front of the camera.
She walks into rooms with her head high, emanating magic, in her teeny weeny afro and I respect the hell out of her. In her speech, she talked about the importance of knowing our power, even as the world tells us we have none.
“I want to encourage all these other black girls. I know it can get tough out there. It can get downright ugly. I have walked the path, or some version of it, but know you are designed for greatness. And black girl, you rock because you have so much potential. Your power and your resilience will help to heal this world.
You have a resilience that is in your DNA…whether you want it or not. You are what the world is waiting for. Whether the world acknowledges that or not. Step into your uniqueness. Protect it. Nurture it. It is precious. No one can do what you can do or contribute what you are destined and designed to contribute.”
Say every piece of that, ma’am!
Rightfully earned, the Young, Gifted and Black Award went to Amandla Stenberg, who is walking proof that Black girls are from the future. She burst unto the scene as Rue in Hunger Games and folks fell in love with her. Since then, she’s been using her popularity and platform to speak out on issues that matter, and her video on cultural appropriation made people stop and pay attention to her as a voice.
At 16 years old, she’s already smarter and bolder than most of us. She is also one of those young folks who lets the rest of us know that their generation will be just fine.
During her speech, she talked about how she thrives BECAUSE not in spite of her Blackness. It was so good!
“I remember looking in the mirror when I was a little girl, and looking and all that hair, and being like, “Ugh why is that there?” I wanted it to go down so much. I remember suppressing it and brushing it. And being so frustrated that I was so big and so bold. I felt like I took up too much space.
But because of those women i have learned that i do not thrive despite my blackness. My blackness does not inhibit me from being beautiful and intelligent. In fact it is the reason the reason I am beautiful and intelligent.”
Again, this girl is 16. Can you imagine what she’s going to be doing at 30? I cannot wait.
Gladys Knight has been in the music business for over half a century and she is still schooling the kids on what it looks like to be a great entertainer on voice alone. She was the recipient of the Living Legend Award, and Kelly Rowland was on stage to present it to her. But her good friend, Dionne Warwick came up to speaking about their sisterhood. It was beautiful. I hollered when she said “I asked her if I could be a Pip but she wouldn’t let me.”
But yes, Aunty Gladys!
“My first trophy was given to me when I was 7 years old. I had just won the Ted Mac original amateur hour. It was right here in New York. But there were none of my sisters there. There were none of my sisters to help me hold the trophy as they had asked the kids on the show to do, and none of their parents would allow them to do it. I was the only African American sister on the show…It was amazing, because I had a black girl that rocked in my family. I called her mom. She nurtured me.”
The ruler of Thursdays on television, Shonda Rhimes, won the Shot Caller Award. She was called the Khaleesi, because her three dragons (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder) are slaying. Through her work, other creators are being given chances to tell stories about complex characters who aren’t just lily white, straight men. Because of Shonda proving that OUR stories matter and they can be lucrative, others are getting the chance to tell them. Shonda is calling the shots at ABC but she is laying the path for so many.
I loved how Debbie Allen presented her with the award. In February, Shonda presented Debbie with her award at ESSENCE’s 2016 Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon so it was just right for the tables to turn at Black Girls Rock!
“For those of us up here on the stage, our careers have been named. Our paths have been chosen. We have picked our mountains and we have started to climb it. Because the minute someone starts giving you awards, you are more history than future.
Your slates are blank. Your paths are clear and your stories are whatever you decide they’re going to be. You are the builders of the 21st century. You have a right to the universe. You were given then right simply by being born. So you already rock… Change the world. And when you’ve done that, change it again.”
Bad Girl Ri-Ri got the Rock Star Award, for being herself and for being larger than life in her persona as a singer/fashionista/icon and girl who answers to nobody.
Our gal showed up as only she can, in a fox fur, oversized shirt and shorts.
“I believe God put us all here for a reason and we all have our purpose and we are here to fulfill our purpose individually. I think the thing that’s kept me sane, the thing that’s kept me humble, the thing that’s kept me successful is being myself. I only know how to do that.
This world is so big and it can be so confusing at times that you tend to forget and you tend to be so indented or tainted by society and the only thing that’s kept me going is being myself. And the minute you learn to love yourself you would not want to be anybody else. Role model is not the title they like to give me, but…I think I can inspire a lot of young women to be themselves and that is half the battle.”
Black Lives Matter
The founders of #BlackLivesMatter were honored with the Change Agent Award. Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors are the women behind the hashtag that evolved into an organization that is being called a Movement. They are much deserving for creating the rallying cry that has given words to those stunned by police brutality and other symptoms of our oppressive state.
They talked about how Black Lives Matter is not THE MOVEMENT. It is part of it and they are committed to freedom fighting.
“We did not start the Black liberation movement, but we are honored to contribute. Our fight is grounded in the pursuit of dignity and sanctity of all Black lives. We are not the new Civil Rights Movement; however, we stand on the shoulders of giants who paved the way for Black dignity. We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”
The creator of BLACK GIRL ROCK!, Beverly Bond dropped her own gems too.
“Black girls still have to grow up with pervasive and paradoxical messages that say that our Black is not beautiful, but our features can be bought and sold to enhance the beauty of other women.
When Black girls swag and the black girl’s aesthetic are only dope without the Black girl but sky rocket in value and get put on a pedestal when it’s put on other bodies, our girls internalize that to mean that they are less beautiful. I started #BlackGirlsRock because I love us and I believe in us. Why do I need to get permission from you to affirm me? I want us to walk righteous in our spirit. Own your magic, walk in your purpose, rock in your truth.”
SAY IT ONE MORE TIME FOR THE UPPER DECKS. *coughs* Kylie Jenner and the entire Kardashian clan.
Anywho, another year, another awesome show. Incredible performances by Brandy, Jazmine Sullivan and Lauryn Hill were the cherry on the dopesauce sundae. I’m just really happy that Lauryn made it to the taping. You know she’s good for missing an engagement or being 56 hours late. Let us praise Yahweh that we saw her. Because when she performs at her best, like she did, you remember why she is THE Lauryn Hill.
Oh and the pink elephant in the room… Hillary Clinton’s appearance on the stage at Black Girls Rock!
She said: “There are still a lot of barriers holding back African Americans and Black women in particular, so a gathering like this filled with so many powerful, strong women is a rebuke to every single one of those barriers. All of our kids, no matter what zip code they live in, deserve a good teacher and a good school, a safe community and clean water to drink.”
Ok en, Hill! If I were Hillary, I’d wanna be in the room too, especially after putting my foot in my mouth repeatedly on matters regarding Black people. But do I feel like it was genuine? I can’t say that. People felt like it was pandering, which is also valid on some front. I’m just on the sidelines sipping tea right now. I am not With Her and I am not Feeling the Bern.
One thing I will say is that the memes from this appearance have me cackling like a fool. You know Twitter ran with it. They got all types of pics of Hillary photoshopped in cornrows tryna be down.
— ChampagnePetty (@__Dutch) April 6, 2016
Anywho, shoutout to the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! team for another great show! Thank you for prioritizing the celebration of Black girl magic.