Some pronounced it like a mantra, others as a natural fact. Sometimes it was used as a greeting other times, a closing. In any case, “Black girls rock” was intoned at BET’s Black Girls Rock Awards Show taping at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx hundreds, if not thousands, of times when the show taped earlier this month.
The affirmation and the non-profit organization it represents counteracts the lack of confidence or low self-esteem many Black girls develop because of experiences they’ve had surrounding their race, color or gender. Beverly Bond’s Black Girls Rock mentoring program, now with satellites all over the country encourages Black girls to define themselves, not only by their race, their color or their gender (as society often does) but to define themselves on their own terms.
“I’m a Black girl inside,” actress Regina King, the night’s host told EBONY on the red carpet as she arrived for the show in a form-fitting lace black mini. “I was a girl like most girls, who struggled through those awkward moments.” King has hosted the show for five years and she said she remains committed to the Black Girls Rock “movement” because she wants to “contribute to something that’s giving young Black girls an outlet” to celebrate their awkward Black girlness.
Those awkward Black girl moments occur when Black girls recognize they are more layered and multi-faceted than the images the media keeps playing back to them.
“I’m still learning who I am,” recording artist and Cover Girl spokeswoman Janelle Monae told EBONY on the red carpet before the show. “I had to embrace the things that make me unique, nurture myself. I believe it is our uniqueness and our unique ideas that make us rock.” Monae wore her signature tuxedo-style black suit, but with rhinestone brooches and a McQueen clutch. Monae typically wears the same tuxedo-styled black and white suit that has commenters on websites begging her to hire a stylist. But Monae’s not having it.
Neither is veteran journalist and former EIC of Essence Susan Taylor, who received the Black Girls Rock Inspiration Award. She said: “People probably talk about me: “How long she gonna wear those braids? You’re gonna bury me in them.” Taylor brought her granddaughter to the show so she could see India Arie and Alicia Keys who performed “I am not My Hair” and “Girl on Fire” respectively. “This is an intergenerational thing,” she told EBONY on the red carpet. Co-Host Tracee Ellis Ross thought so too; she rocked one of mom Diana Ross’ silver Oscar De la Renta blouses onstage after one of her costume changes of the night.
And among Eva Longoria’s white dress from Dana Budeanu, Kerry Washington’s creme Marchesa chemise, Taraji P. Henson’s golden metallic Diane Von Furstenberg dress, Gabielle Union’s Dolce and Gabana frock, Ciara’s black Givenchy get-up, Keyshia Cole’s embroidered Jovani gown, and LaLa Anthony’s long-sleeved dark green velvet Balmain bodycon, Megan Good’s cropped top and sheer black cullottes from American Apparel were a stand-out. Megan told EBONY on the red carpet that she loves that Black Girls Rock is “banding us together as sisters.” She said: “We need to be a community. We need to uplift each other and we need to be happy about being bold and being who we are.”
Later that evening onstage, Good presented Janelle Monae with the Black Girls Rock Young Gifted and Black award, and when Janelle got to the podium, her unique style was explained:
“When I started my musical career I was a maid,” Monae said. “I used to clean houses and the girls I used to clean houses with used to always beg me to sing while we cleaned. I lived in a boarding house with five other girls and I would sell my $5 CD out of my room. My mother was a proud janitor, my step-father who raised me worked at the post office, and my father was a trash man. They all wore a uniform and that’s why I wear my uniform to honor them,” Monae said tearfully. “I have work to do. I have people to uplift. I have people to inspire. And today I wear my uniform proudly.”
Other award winners for the evening included Dionne Warwick (Living Legend), Washington (Star Power) , Dr. Hawa Abdi, (Social Humanitarian), and Keys (Rock Star) . The Black Girls Rock award show airs on BET, November 4th at 8pm.