Photo from Amandla Stenberg’s Facebook page.
Black Girls Rock aired last night, splattering black girl magic and exceptionalism over our TV screens. Honorees included television heavyweight Shonda Rhimes, Amandla Stenberg, and Rihanna. Black girls from various disciplines shared their encouragements, stories, and accomplishments with each other and as you’d expect, it was fabulous. The organizers of #blacklivesmatter, actress Danai Gurira, and the legendary Gladys Knight were also recognized. As soon as Tracee Ellis Ross began her opening act, tears welled up in my eyes. The excitement got to me instantly. She acted out a mash-up of Janet Jackson’s “Control”, “Work” by Rihanna, and “Formation” by Beyonce. The opener also included classics like Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and a beautiful rendition of her mother’s, Diana Ross, song “Who’s The Boss?” with a super cute “I love you, mom!” as the intro.
There is something truly overwhelming about black women being themselves and having the strength to show that to the world. Our experiences are all so unique, but the through line is that the paths we walk do coincide, and it’s always soul refreshing to feel connected to other powerful women of color. Everyone shared something of value that could empower those in attendance and the viewers watching at home. Seriously, the gems these black girls dropped goes far beyond poignant. I’m talking real, valid, applicable life hacks.
The essence of these women together in that space felt otherworldly, yet tangible. The award show is much more than handing out trophies that signify some accolade. It reaffirms the need for diverse representation and inspires girls like me, someone who is sculpting their life, to know that I can be who I am, who I aspire to be and to do so unashamedly. The results of our lives may vary, but we’re all fighting the same fight as black girls. We’re all here navigating something special, something magical, and we deserve to know that we can see ourselves in each other, without compromising what sets us apart from the rest. Gladys Knight serenaded us with some of her greatest hits, proving that her voice is still as flawless as she is. Danai Gurira taught us that sometimes you have to do a u-turn to reach your destination and explained the importance of sisterhood by using her friendship with Lupita N’yongo as an example. Amandla Stenberg represented for the youth by letting us know that we can be groundbreakers at any age and that without young rebels, a brighter future is nonexistent. Rihanna reminded us that there are no rules to being a role model. That being you is a revolution in itself. Lauryn Hill was the final performance of the night, and she rocked the house. African dancers joined her on stage for a revised version of “Lost Ones” with her Afro-futurism in tow.
M.A.D Girls like Marley Dias and Maya Penn of 1,000 Black Girl Books and Maya’s Ideas, respectively, were among the young women acknowledged for the world-changing efforts. These brilliant teens are encouraging their peers to read stories that reflect images of themselves, to be creative, eat healthily, and give back to those in need. Black Girls Rock provides a haven for women and girls, and that is something I can’t appreciate enough.
I slept knowing that there will come a time when being black and female will no longer be falsley viewed as a burden. I am aware that a new era is being ushered in right now. One where we don’t have to learn to love ourselves only after tackling a society that doesn’t approve when women of color are carefree. Black Girls Rock is more proof that we are enough, just as we are. This year’s show was soulful – Brandy and Andra Day’s performance are two examples – loving and the representation we need to achieve true self-love.
Photos from BET.