way of making it a big deal.
BB: I made it cool on purpose. I knew what I was doing. I knew it had to be attractive. We use the arts to empower our girls, but we don’t just use it for the sake of creativity by itself. We also use if for work ethic in business and integrity. I love these girls. I love being able to empower them through excellence and to make them love being at the top of their game.
EBONY:I believe that when you dedicate your life to making someone else’s better. you really do feel that joy in return. But how do you refill your cup after giving so much?
BB: When I speak to people I always tell them that service should be your joy and not be a burden to you. You have to make sure you’re in a place that you’re doing what you can do and where you can give. Sometimes people will try to take on more than they can actually handle. We found a niche with our girls. We mentor them; we have a extensive application process. We need to see that they are on the road to making themselves better. We have girls from different economic backgrounds, social backgrounds, and from different regions. Sometimes people will want to know why we won’t take on a girl who is a troubled teen and who has behavioral issues. But I’m like: “I don’t have the bandwidth or education for that.” When we tried to open our doors and do it for everyone, without an application process, many of those girls would not commit. We just realized they were taking it for granted. So what we learned was that we needed to create a standard. I think it’s important for anyone trying to make a difference is to know your limitations. We’ve grown from mentoring to summer camps and sometimes it can become disheartening to have to exclude others. I had to have a conference with one of my parents of a mentee. She was mad that her daughter wasn’t featured in the awards show. I had to tell that lady that every Saturday since 2006, I’m a mentor. Secondly, we are not here to make your kid a star, we are here to make your kids great. This is the kind of stuff you have to deal with. Her daughter got it and she apologized, though. We’re mission driven here. We know what we’re doing. There’s no way I’m going to let someone take me off of God’s work. I’m good.
EBONY:Some Black women have actually criticized BGR on its initiative. How have you dealt with this?
BB: There are a lot of people who do that. We are in a state of constant healing. I don’t even blame those people who have been down the negative road. I hope they come back and they see something that empowers them and makes them better.
We’ve had girls tell us from their own mouths that they were in a place where they felt like they didn’t matter. They put bleach on their skin and were suicidal because they didn’t feel there was a place for the Black girl in the world. That was until they came to Black Girls Rock. When I get letters like that, I don’t care what people have to say. Because you obviously don’t understand the positive affect this is having on someone. Mind you the criticism comes from within a lot of the time. 90 percent of it comes from within our community and it’s very sad. It just shows you the amount of damage that has been done.
EBONY: With BGR, how are you really working to untangle that damage that has been done, starting with the young women?
BB: We have a curriculum and within our DJ and writing and poetry program, we always try to address the subject of ourselves in media. That’s the focus. So these are conversations that we are constantly engaging in with our youth and their parents. I think the BGR awards itself is one of the bigger ways that we’re trying to untangle the damage that has been done. And having this broadcast on BET, it really takes that message to a huger level.
EBONY: How can someone like myself get involved?
BB: I think everybody can do something. We have an application process for mentors and tutors. It really depends on what volunteers we need. We need help in all kinds areas. We look for people who specifically have great ideas. We also say start where you are. There’s so many mentoring programs out here that need the help and need the volunteers. A lot of times, people think all we do is the awards show. They don’t see the mentoring we do all year