Black Girls Rock! aired on BET Tuesday night, marking a momentous ceremony that commemorated the best of black girl magic.
Black women of all ages sat together in sisterhood to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Black Girls Rock!, a mentoring organization founded by DJ Beverly Bond. They watched as host Tracee Ellis Ross led an exceptional evening filled with fun performances from stars like Brandy, Monica and Lauryn Hill. They also applauded strong messages of empowerment from influential women like Rihanna, Shonda Rhimes, Amandla Stenberg and, among others, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton who joined the stage to introduce Bond.
“Thank you Beverly Bond for making sure that the entire world knows what you know and that is Black Girls Rock!,” Clinton said Tuesday. “Beverly reminded everyone that black women are change-makers, path-breakers, and ground-shakers. When black women rock, black families rock, America rocks, the world rocks.”
Bond launched Black Girls Rock! as a non-profit organization in 2006 to provide young women of color with the resources, inspiration and tools they need for leadership and self-empowerment. Since its launch, the organization has grown tremendously and recently extended its influence to black women and girls in Africa.
The annual Black Girls Rock! award show has been televised on BET since 2010 and it is only one extension of the extraordinary work Bond produces. In any regard, the award show is undoubtedly one of the best public displays of black women’s beauty and brilliance.
“I started Black Girls Rock! because I love us and I believe in us,” Bond said onstage Tuesday night. “I want us to walk confidently in our authentic truth and I want us to be free.”
Throughout the ceremony, several black women were recognized for their trailblazing work in their respective fields. Actress Danai Gurira took home the show’s “Star Power” award for exemplifying how magical and multidimensional black women are through her roles acting in “The Walking Dead” and as playwright for the hit Broadway play, “Eclipsed.”
Actress Amandla Stenberg was also honored as she took home the Young, Black and Gifted award for fearlessly speaking out about issues of race, beauty and identity, all of which were present themes in her speech.
“My blackness does not inhibit me from being beautiful and intelligent,” Stenberg said as she accepted her award. “In fact, it is the reason I am beautiful and intelligent. And you can not stop me.”
Celebrated singer Gladys Knight was honored with the Living Legend Award and Black Lives Matter co-founders Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors were also celebrated for their groundbreaking community work that has galvanized a movement fighting for equality. Young game-changers were also recognized like chef Haile Thomas, entrepreneur Maya Penn and 11-year-old Marley Dias, who launched an impressive reading campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks.
In her speech, Rhimes declared the need for strong will, ambition and drive: “Change the world and when you’ve done that, change it again,” she said.
Meanwhile Rihanna, who was honored with the prestigious Rockstar award, spoke about the importance of self-love and self-acceptance. “The minute you learn to love yourself, you would not want to be anyone else,” she said.
Standing ovations erupted endlessly throughout the night. The applause from the audience and the praise people poured online reaffirmed the power of a platform like Black Girls Rock! Along with her team, Bond has championed black women and girls who are challenging the status quo, and she has no plans of stopping any time soon.
“To all the black girls all over the world,” Bond said, “Own your magic, walk in your purpose and rock your truth.”