Black Girls Rock! founder and CEO Beverly Bond’s origin in entertainment came through modeling and, later, deejaying exclusive events for stars the likes of Prince, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Erykah Badu and others. In 2006, she launched the youth empowerment organization Black Girls Rock!, and the annual Black Girls Rock! Awards. By 2010, she’d partnered with BET to spread her Black Girls Rock! Awards nationally.
The show’s debut reached 2.7 million viewers and has since won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Special or Program. Bond has made it to the EBONY Power 100 list for five consecutive years, and been recognized as the magazine’s Most Influential Blacks in America. Set to broadcast her fourth collaborative show November 3, we took a moment to sit with the social innovator, DJ, CEO and former Wilhemina model to discuss her dynamic work.
EBONY: How do you go about selecting these particular women every year?
Beverly Bond: We do have categories that we always look for that help decide who goes where, so we want to make sure we always have a diverse group of women. There are many Black women out here doing incredible things, making incredible marks in the world. We want to make sure those women get their just due, get their respect, and also are held up as examples—so that our young girls can see greatness in their face and see that they can become great and understand what greatness really looks like and how you get there.
This year, we have our Living Legend, who is Patti LaBelle, our Social Humanitarian, which is Marian Wright Edelman, our Community Activist, which is Ameena Matthews, our Young, Gifted & Black, which is Misty Copeland. Our Star Power is Venus Williams.
EBONY: What are some of the things people are going to see and experience that may be new to this show?
BB: Being in a new space, the show may be a little more hi-tech, because we are moving to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. We do love the traditional theater, the Paradise Theater. But this one is much more state of the art, so we play with the digital stuff a little bit more. That in itself will be fun, and the women they don’t know and haven’t been exposed too.
I think a lot of people, for example, don’t know about Alice Smith. Those of us that know music know that she is the truth. Being able to expose women, like that year we had Ledisi on. We were surprised there were so many people who did not know who she was, and it was their very first time seeing her. We also have our M.A.D. girls. That’s our tradition to honor girls under the age of 25 who are making a difference, to show the world you can start as early as you believe you can and make a change in the lives of others.
EBONY: You’ve been mentoring for a while. What are some of the success stories you’ve heard?
BB: We actually just did a documentary with My Black Is Beautiful focusing on one of our mentees. Her story is such a huge success, just going from a girl who thought that she was cursed because her skin was Black [to] one of the most confident people I have ever met. She is so self-assured, so appreciative of her culture, appreciative of her features, [and] very proud of who she is. Now she inspires others to do the same.
We have so many wonderful girls that need this message and need each other and need to be in a program where they can be affirmed constantly, and I see the difference. I see girls who would not open their mouths [before] being leaders and speakers. We know that our programs are effective. We know that the conversations, the empowerment circles, even the art programs and course exchanges [are] things they can take with them for life.
EBONY: What are some of the things you’ve learned about the Black girls and women who rock in the process?
BB: I think that just learning this message was needed, that it’s effective—learning how to become a better mentor, learning how to continue to empower learning, As a DJ, I’ve always had support of women. But really, starting Black Girls Rock!, just to see the power behind the support of women—not just Black women, but really women all over who appreciate the stance that I’m taking and really put their weight behind this because they believe in it. And also the men. We get a lot of families, a lot of men, who feel and appreciate this message as well. There’s just so much in growing a movement that you learn along the way.
I wasn’t the person who wanted to speak, even though I have these feelings, even though I had these thoughts, even though I started this Black Girls Rock! thing. Just stepping into my own leadership was a growth process for me in understanding the necessity of it, understanding the need for people to actually hear from the person that started it. I fooled myself in this process, and my leadership has grown, and I accept it.
EBONY: Where does Black Girls Rock! go from here?
BB: One of the bigger things that Black Girls Rock! is working to accomplish is, we are starting a think tank. There needs to be a research harvest center. Not that there aren’t some out there, but we would really like to focus on having a hub where research is done specifically on the media’s messages and actions, and how it affects our youth culture, and what are the consequences of that. I think that that’s a big deal for us, to have a research center.
In addition to that, our programs continue to grow. We’ve already started a leadership camp that’s been going now for three years, and it’s a strong leadership camp. Girls have been coming from all around the world. We’ve had girls come from as far away as Japan, Liberia, London, South Africa, Jamaica and all across the United States. It continues to grow and continues to have a major impact. And even work on trying to start a boarding school similar to what we do with the leadership camp.
To learn more about Black Girls Rock! mentoring, go to http://www.blackgirlsrock.org. For more about Black Girls Rock! Awards on BET, go to http://www.BET.com/blackgirlsrock and enjoy the show November 3.