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.
"There are a lot of unfair, one-sided representations of who we are. I don't see all these miserable, unhappy black women. What I see are lots of empowered women who care about life, humanity and the world."
Without question, Bond is an inspiration, but I had to ask her why she chose BET to air her awards show. After all, the network, for which I used to work, has been harshly criticized and blamed for enforcing misogynistic attitudes toward black women with its broadcast of certain hip-hop videos. You remember the infamous "Tip Drill" video, when rapper Nelly swiped a credit card between a woman's buttocks? That pushed the women of Spelman College, a black women's school, into action with petitions and planned protests.
But Bond says that BET was always her only choice. "If there is a message about black women that needs to be heard," she says, "[BET] is where it needs to be heard the loudest." Bond says that she keeps an eye on BET as well as other entertainment networks and is happy to see a shift at BET for the better when it comes to programming and community outreach.
Here's what I suggest. For Colored Girls is in theaters this weekend, and Black Girls Rock is on this Sunday, so let's have an "I Love Black Girls 'Cause We Rock Weekend!" Gather up the girlfriends on Friday night or Saturday afternoon and go see the movie. Then Sunday, pick someone's home for a gathering and watch Black Girls Rock. Throw in a trip to the spa for a mani-pedi and to your favorite bar for cocktails and conversation, and we can put that whole Sex and the City movie-going experience to shame.
It's the perfect time to kick off a much needed celebration of black women.
Jacque Reid is a seasoned broadcast journalist and a contributing editor for The Root. Listen to her biweekly on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, and visit her on the Web at jacquereid.com.