Call it perfect timing. Black Girls Rock makes its television debut this weekend on BET as the public image of black women continues to be dragged through the mud.
It is difficult to miss recent reports, blogs and viral videos exploring why many of us will never marry or even come close to finding a good man, complaining that our standards are way too high and that we have attitude problems, or explaining that our credit is bad.
For the black woman left feeling a bit deflated, what a refreshing surprise to find BET coming to the rescue with the premiere of the Black Girls Rock Awards show. The event honors outstanding women in entertainment, community service and science. This year’s show honors Ruby Dee, Raven-Symone, Missy Elliott, Keke Palmer, Iyanla Vanzant, Teresa Clarke and Major General Marcelite Harris.
I have attended Black Girls Rock, and the show is an experience. There is an overpowering energy that fills the room and infects men, women, performers and attendees with an unstoppable desire to relish in the celebration of black women. I am not exaggerating. And the awards show is just part of the story.
Black Girls Rock! Inc. is the brainchild of Wilhelmina model-turned-DJ Beverly Bond, who made The Root 100 2010 list. She realized four years ago that the affirmation “Black Girls Rock” needed to be more than just a T-shirt slogan. As a black woman, she felt that images in the media often depict us as angry, lacking culture or undesirable to our men. “That impacts how you feel about and see yourself,” she tells The Root, “and it could cause self-esteem issues moving forward.” Bond feels that is especially true for black girls.
She pointed to the movie Save the Last Dance as an example. “A white girl comes to the school, all of a sudden she is the best dancer and she gets the best guy at the school,” says Bond. “Someone outside is better than you. That’s not a positive message to send.” Bond adds that the few times black women would see themselves as glamorous and beautiful were in music videos, too often in the role of a “video girl.” She felt that wasn’t good enough.
Bond created a program to mentor young black girls and to let them know how wonderful they are. These 12- to 17-year-olds learn to express themselves through hip-hop music with lessons in spinning. They also participate in the arts, cultural projects and public service. She sees that her efforts help enhance the girls’ self-esteem but knows more has to be done. “There is a lot of healing that needs to happen,” she says.
Bond feels that black women need to fight back and retell the story when it comes to our images. For example, we need to rewrite the myth that black women can’t get along or that we are bitter. Over the years, she says, much of the love and support for her hard work has come from black women.