Beverly Bond is a woman who takes on massive responsibility in proving that Black Girls Rock! She is a social entrepreneur, model, mentor, DJ and now an author. Gifted with the ability to know what people want, Bond has worked to reshape the narrative of the Black woman and continues to celebrate the importance of #BlackGirlMagic. EBONY talks with Bond and gets insight on her passion that comes to life in her new book.
Black Girls Rock, Owning Our Magic & Rocking Our Truth. What’s the premise of the book to you?
It’s just a continuation of the movement and the mission of Black Girls Rock!, and I wanted something that people could have as a takeaway they could refer to at all times. With the awards show, we could only honor so many women at a time, whereas with the book we can share the magic, survival and achievements of Black women in this one space. I thought I was going to interview 20 women for this book and end up with almost 60 women. It’s kind of amazing! I am grateful for all the support in the book; all the women in the book are on the same mission: To make sure that our stories are told. So that’s the premise. It’s just making sure that our narratives are at the forefront so that Black women and girls have someplace to reference in a more mainstream way. We don’t have to necessarily always have to dig deep to find who we are and our story.
Speaking of affirmations, what are the most vital ones to that you live by. I think our readers would love to know what it is that Ms. Beverly Bond follows.
It’s funny … my book is actually dedicated to a friend of mine who passed away from cancer. I wanted to show that I had her presence in the books and her mantra, her affirmation, was something that I adopted in the book. It was contagious, it was to live true and dance free. It resonated so much with me because she stood in her truth. She stood for her art. And I think that that’s something that I do as well. I believe in a truth and a justice in us as a people. So I think that to live true and dance free, which I’m borrowing from Marjorie, who the book is dedicated to, I would say that that would be one of my mantras.
I’m getting back to you talking about living in your truth—and especially speaking about Marjorie—that’s such a reoccurring theme in this book, and I’ve noticed that in a lot of our most successful leaders as of right now, they’re going onstage. Even past #BlackGirlsRock honorees, like Rihanna, have said, “Stick to your truth, be yourself.” Why is it so vital to just be honest and real about who you are?
Finding your truth is finding your purpose, finding your passion, finding your mission, finding things that matter most to you because when we walked through this world and walk through the earth and we walked through humanity, we have to be able to tune into that to become our better self. And so I think that that’s the meaning of, of finding that. And I think the reason why it’s important for Black girls, specifically, is because there has been such a lie about who we are. There’s been such a delusion, kind of like false narrative about who we are, how we exist. We are, we know that scientifically that is has been approved unless someone proves otherwise that we are the first, right? So that’s such a huge and special place for you to be in the world. But how does our stories get so muddled along the way where we somehow did not know our value? That’s because society did not tell us our value, and we started to incorporate that lie as our own truth. That’s why it’s important, this theme of rocking your truth and owning your magic is what that means to me.
We talked about power, beauty, brilliance, all of those are such distinctive and unique qualities that, let’s be honest, that truly represents Black American women. Yet, we can agree that we still deal with our women being undervalued in our country. How do we change that narrative?
I think it’s about doing things like this. We have to continue to make sure all of us who have our diverse story has to be more vocal about making sure that our voices come to the forefront. When I started Black Girls Rock, I didn’t know that it would turn into the type of movement that it would. It has turned into so much into a movement to see that it was a tipping point for so many other things. I think we all have the ability to create those tipping points when we see something that is on just in the way that Black women have been treated in society, forever. I mean people of color in general, but certainly women, and certainly Black women. We have to continue to chip away at that, and women have done it way before me, throughout our history. And so I think every generation has to find their own way to help affect a change in humanity for whatever their passion or calling is.
Let’s talk about the importance of Black love among our communities. We’re finally starting to get that right. I feel like it’s starting to resonate with us. There’s this shift and awareness of our Black love in the community. However, we still sometimes find ourselves in a “crab in a barrel” mentality on a social and systematic level. We’re being put against one another. How do you think we break out of that?
First, you have to recognize the problem. You have to see it in order to be able to cure it. And I think that we had been put on circumstances that have not been our fault on, you know, everything from colorism to just the crabs in a barrel you mentioned or to violence within our community. All of it has been a part of a systemic, devaluation of us as people in general. And I think that we’ve got to fight against that. You know, look at what Black Panther has just done in terms of kind of tapping into the entire diaspora all over the world. I have seen the movie twice! Everyone has tapped into this, and feels so empowered and feels so proud of that Blackness. We have to create those proud Black moments for us, not to dismiss anyone else and their ethnicity and their importance, but to be able to know and be proud of our own. And I think that that’s just because a part of that is just revealing all of our truth, revealing who we are, revealing our contributions. Revealing things that we had been kept from us. I mean we just saw a movie about hidden figures that we did not know. We didn’t know women in that time period existed. It’s important for us to continue to tell our stories and to elevate our truth.
I have to ask because Black Panther continues to be such a huge topic of conversation within the industry and our community. What did Black Panther do for you personally?
I think for me it was just another affirmation of how powerful, how beautiful, how dope we are. It reminded me of just how powerful our women are. It made me grateful to be able to witness it. And it also made me grateful to have been a part of a collective of people who are pushing our narrative forward. I think about that and I think about the tipping points and I think about the things that opened doors to make other things matter. I know that Black Girls Rock! opened doors to make sure that everyone is knowing our magic. All of a sudden, there’s this interest in Black women and everything. That wasn’t the case in 2006. To be able to see it. It’s like, OK; I feel like I’m a part of the selected that’s moving culture forward and that’s a blessing, and it’s also a responsibility. So I left the movies feeling so empowered and wanting to go back and see it again and wanting to take all of our girls to see it, and share it with everyone. We have to show how powerful this movie is, how financially empowering it is, the fact that it just changed the whole game the all kinds of ways. It’s like the Beyoncé of movies. A lot of us have been taught to run from our Blackness. We automatically think that something is wrong with our Blackness and I know this even with Black Girls Rock, there’s been times when we couldn’t get people to be a part of it. That’s not to say that it was necessarily the people, but it was their public relations reps not understanding that their artists should be on something like this. Now, you have those same public relations representatives now asking to have their talent on Black Girls Rock. So it’s just amazing to see that change and those kinds of shifts. I think it starts with us. It starts with us seeing that beauty. I think that things like Black Girls Rock! and EBONY magazine and certainly all of our people in Wakanda have to make us know that we are so special, we are so dope. It doesn’t take anything away from anyone else. We have been fooled about our power, and I think that if we’ve been fooled about our contributions, we’ve been fooled about our humanity or spirituality, our connection and our special place in this world. We’ve been lied to for so long and we’ve been put in positions that have put us against each other, of course, it affects how we love each other.
Women like you, Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, I mean the list goes on. You have all eloquently portrayed this modern-day Black female superhero. What’s it like being a modern-day Black feminist?
As Black creatives and so many other women, we try to do our part through the work. It’s not that we’re not doing it in ways that other feminists who may be political activists of doing it, but we’re doing it through our actions so we might not be wearing the swagger the same way. So maybe that’s why it’s almost like it’s been given to people with sugar, like, yes! Women matter, women should be equal, women are powerful, women are half of society. It’s natural what we are doing and women have always been backbones in our community. So we have always known Black women to be warriors, leaders, caretakers and spiritual guidance to all of our community. We’ve always known that. And so I think it’s just natural for us, you know, as feminists as women to just be that. So, I appreciate being in that company because I do feel like it’s kind of the way that I do my work, I try to show it. I think that feminism has just become a way of life right now. It’s a beautiful thing to see so many young women and young women of color specifically embrace the idea that we should empower ourselves, we have the ability to be who we want to be, and there should be no
limitations based on sexist old ideas about what women should and shouldn’t do.
Women like Yara Shahidi are some of our young leaders that you are talking about. This young woman looks up to people like you, Janell Monáe, Michelle Obama. What advice do you give to our young colored girls to carry themselves in such high regard like Yara?
I think Yara is a very special young woman. She’s been amazing. I love her so much and I, I love everything she stands for. Only thing I would say is that because she is held at such a high standard, and so many people are looking up to her, I just want her to give herself permission to be whatever it is, to make mistakes if she has to. She speaks, and you say to yourself who is this girl? She is just so balanced, so beautiful inside and out and so humble, and so humane. Whatever she’s tapped into, I think she’s an incredible example for so many people, which is why we’ve honored her. She’s also in the book. I think the only advice to young girls is to keep going, keep pushing and give yourself permission to just be all that you can be. It’s because of my Black Girls Rock Youth Initiative Programs that I’ve been so fortunate to be a mentor and to have mentored young girls for so long at the particular age of 13 to 17. I’ve met so many of them that are incredible like Yara. I think what happens with Black kids is that people dismiss them. They automatically assume that they belong in this box over here, they dismiss their innocence, they don’t treat them like they are their age, they don’t give them a chance to grow, they are already pushing them into very adult situations even when they are trying to empower them. One of the things that I’ve wanted to do with mentoring. I want to give these girls tools that they need to grow into the best, better, greater selves. It’s not about looking at them as wounded or broken because of the color of their skin. I think that I’m very clear about that in terms of how I mentor and it’s been amazing. We’ve had girls from foster care and girls who are the daughters of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, mayors, rock stars and rappers. You don’t smell the difference when they’re in these programs because I don’t make it about the difference. I make it about the sameness, and the goal of them going to their next better selves. I think that there are a lot of young people who are like the next Yaras and they’re here. I think a lot of people don’t see them because we have put this narrative, and even our own Black people are guilty of this, of putting this very limited narrative on Black children. You also have to give them the right kind of guidance, because a lot of times when people try to relate to children and they’re adults. They’re not giving them the guidance, they want to be cool, they want the cool factor. I want to be an adult that gives you something that’s going to help you grow into your better self. People try too hard to be like the kid, not in a bad way, but right now we live in a world where everybody has access to everything. There has to be a new kind of way of making sure that inappropriateness is not being transferred to children, especially if you’re mentoring. And I think that sometimes people don’t get that. That’s why I say the innocence is assumed that they are not. I think that we need to treat them like they are their age that they need to, they need to know things that they don’t know yet. They need to understand how to move forward in this world without putting themselves in harm’s way. I know that it’s just the most incredible blessing to be able to just offer a little something to these kids’ lives, you know? They need to be treated like they are smart, they are capable but that they are worthy but, then also giving them tools to help them get even further. I think that’s super important for our children.
What do you hope society is going to gain from the Black Girls Rock Owning Our Magic & Rocking Our Truth?
It’s just another piece of literature that’s out here to inspire everyone. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. A lot of people, Black, White, old and young have called me and said, “You know what Beverly? This book is going to inspire everyone!” So I think that’s the beauty of it. That it’s inspiring stories just told from a Black women’s perspective. I have put the book together in a sense that mixes genres, generations and styles that I have been able to mix together but blended seamlessly so that it all makes sense while taking you on a journey. And I think that that’s what I’ve done with the book.
Black Girls Rock! is a mecca of Black Girl Magic. You started this award series in 2006. When the show was launched on television, it captured 2.7 million viewers and reached tens of millions of people in 2017. Did you think it was ever going to become this massive movement?
In 2007, the first award show was at a small bookstore gallery in Brooklyn. Before we went to television, I always felt like women DJs needed a space to be honored because they were breaking ground. The first honorees were MC Lyte and DJ Jazzy Joyce. I was so shy that I wouldn’t speak on a microphone so I would have people do it for me. People like Michaela Angela Davis, Joan Morgan and Kevin Powell speaking. DJ Premier (Christopher Edward Martin) and I opened the first Black Girl Rock! Award. By year two, we were at Lincoln Center. VH1 was at the table first when we were trying to meet our media partners. We were going into the Viacom system, we just didn’t know we were going to BET. Although in my mind I always knew I wanted to be at BET. I recognize that that’s where the message was needed the most. By 2008, we started talking and negotiating, but we had not come to any sort of agreement until 2010. I wanted to make sure that they understood what this message was and that they understood I was not going to compromise. By the time we got to television, it was already a movement. It was listed on EBONY Power 100, I think at least two times before we got to TV. So that’s how big it was; I was able to be one of the most influential Black people in the country before we got on TV. It was an incredible thing. So it didn’t dawn on me that we were at this very moment where we were about to announce the show. So we are at the rehearsal, I’m on the stage and all of a sudden, the Black Girls Rock! image comes up. And at that moment I was thinking, ‘Oh, my God,’ and tears just came down my face. I had tunnel vision about this mission and this work since the time I started from all the award shows that we have. Going into television, I knew that it meant something else, I knew that this message was going to go from the people that knew about it to millions of people that didn’t even tune into this type of message. And so after that moment, I recognized what it was going to do, but it just like finally hit me, like this is what I did. That was kind of a very defining moment.
Summer 2018 is coming. What’s some exciting news you can give us about Black Girls Rock!? Can you give us a little sneak peek of what’s to come in the 2018 award show?
I can’t! I have none! I will say that we will continue to try to lead a charge and make sure that we are elevating stories and narratives that maybe people aren’t thinking about that needs to be at that forethought.