I remember the first time I wore a Black Girls Rock! tee shirt.
It was an irresistible magnet for emotional reactions. Like "Black is Beautiful," the message was genius in its simplicity; its honesty, unavoidable. It was a lightning bolt of a new truth in a cacophony of degrading mottos like “nappy headed hoes” (I can’t believe this is a line in a current Black girl rhyme—having a Color Purple moment, All my life I had to fight.) or a rumbling thunder in the deep and wide silence that is Black girl ignored.
Seeing my shirt had a healing effect on most. It lifted chins off of the chests of weary workers and made many a fly girl flutter. Brothers of all ages invariably gave me looks and nods of loving approval. It unleashed a modern kind of pride. And then there were those who really weren’t feeling it. Instead it evoked feelings of exclusion, isolation, jealousy, lies. I heard “White girls rock too.” (Though I must say I’ve never worn my Paul Smith Jimi Hendrix tee shit and had someone say, Eric Clapton rocks too). I saw the lone Black nerd in a cluster of international nerd girls wish I would just walk my ass on with that billboard on my chest broadcasting her Blackness. Black Girls Rock! as a creed fits me so fine, a couture belief, if you will, but to those never having heard it or believed it, it can also be a ragged touch point for a peculiar pain. It triggers a collapse in a civilizations long time investment in a white Eurocentric beauty supremacy, and that’s down right dangerous. To boldly believe Black Girls Rock! one must have to duck a few bullets of hate and hurt on the Black girl beauty battlefield. I ain’t scared, I wear my a soul and shirt as a shield.
I love this exchange with Beverly sharing the mixed reaction she got at declaring Black Girls Rock! We talk about how the idea of black is beautiful is still resisted and the resistance of black girls was most startling. This is the work. We want to tell our truth about who we say we are. I am on team #BlackGirl.
And I still rock my Black Girls Rock! tee, on the regular.
Now, welcome to the conversation, what do you think? Why would black girls of any age resist the message of Black Girls Rock? What does Black Girls Rock! trigger in you? What about #TeamLightSkin and #TeamDarkSkin, is it social pathology through social media or an expression of pride?
Image activist Michela Angela Davis hosts MAD Free: Intimate Conversations About Our Image, Beauty and Power. The inaugural event, taped at the Brooklyn Museum, featured BLACK GIRLS ROCK! founder Beverly Bond. Check out the two savvy sisters as they dish about Black beauty and click here to learn more about MAD Free!