Yara Shahidi delivered a compelling speech at the Black Girls Rock! award show, which aired on BET on Tuesday night, and reminded everyone that she is an unstoppable young woman. 

Shahidi, who is 17 years old and the star of ABC’s new show “Grown-ish” ― a spin off from the hit series “black-ish”― received the show’s Young, Black & Gifted award for her inspiring work both on- and off-screen. As an outspoken activist, Shahidi frequently sheds light on racial injustices and speaks to social issues affecting marginalized communities. She uses her platform for good, and she exemplified this again on Tuesday by delivering a rousing speech encouraging young black girls to embrace all of who they are. 

“For many people, the definition [of their identity] is based on who we are not, it’s based on who we don’t want to be, who we don’t want to be perceived like,” she said.

“White taught me what black was not. Male taught me what female was not. Straight taught me what gay was not. Sad taught me what happy was not. Law taught me what equality and equity were not,” she added, listing examples of the ways in which she said she previously viewed the world. “But our charge is not to live within this negative space of who we are not to be. Who are we not to be, after all?”

Shahidi went on to deliver more empowering declarations about the magic young black girls hold, reminding them of the power each of them has when they embrace their full selves. 

“Our community has sparked powerful, insightful and fierce black girls, and this community exists without definition and therefore without restriction,” she said. 

Black Girls Rock! inspires us to lead in the midst of hard times, speak up for one another who are actively being silenced, and push forward,” she added. “The way that our ancestors have so clearly planned for us to do. We thrive because we are, we are because we chose to be.”



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