We owe black women a debt that we could never even imagine repaying. They have blessed us with their presence and for that, we are better as a collective. The love they have shown us held us through some of our darkest times, while simultaneously reminding us that we are worthy and we would surely be lost as a people if ever they were taken away from us.
Black Girls Rock! is a constant reminder of these aforementioned facts. It is a night dedicated to the magic that black women possess and a celebration of their immense contributions to not only our culture but to the world. Hosted by Niecy Nash, in a far, far away land known as New Jersey, many gathered to bask in the beauty and wisdom that is #BlackGirlMagic. The night’s honorees included Golden Globe winner and Oscar-nominated actress, director, and producer Angela Bassett (Icon Award), Oscar, Golden Globe, and Emmy-winning actress and director Regina King (Star Power Award), Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Ciara (Rock Star Award), Academy Award and Emmy Award-nominated producer and industry trailblazer Debra Martin Chase (Shot Caller Award), two-time Grammy Award-winning musician H.E.R. (Young Gifted and Black Award), and activists the Mothers of the Movement Sybrina Fulton, Geneva Reed-Veal, Gwen Carr, Lucy McBath, Maria Hamilton and Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley.
“I was told ‘Level Up’ wasn’t going to work,” said Ciara as she received her Rock Star Award. “Level Up”, which now holds platinum status, is one of the first of many wins for Ciara under her new independent label Beauty Marks Entertainment. The singer who blessed us with a “1, 2, Step” told the audience that she “felt creatively handcuffed,” and that led her to carve out her own path for success. Receiving this award from Black Girls Rock! was a homecoming moment of sorts for Ciara since her first performance was on BET’s 106 & Park.
CiCi has come a mighty long way since the days of giving us a show in her cargo capris. From becoming the first African-American woman to own a professional soccer team to consistently delivering chart-topping hits, Ciara has shown that she is an undeniable force not to be trifled with. While receiving her award, Ciara took the audience to church and reminded us all that “no one can close a door that God has opened for you.” She ended her time on stage by reminding us all to be patient and to remember that everything will go how it is meant to.
Ciara’s speech was the first to usher in multiple reminders of our worth. “You don’t have to compare yourself just to be who you are,” said H.E.R., born Gabriella Wilson. After accepting her “flowers” she took the audience down the path of her success. She stated how she wrote her dreams in a little journal to keep her on track and how she never wanted to be placed in a box. That need to not be boxed-in made H.E.R. create her own personal style and lane. Music has always been a passion for this talented artist. By the age of 8, she taught herself how to play four instruments by ear. (At 8-years-old I believe I was debating which Power Ranger move I would reenact. We all have our own journeys.)
By the end of her speech, she said that black women are limitless and should refuse to be placed in a box. From behind her rose-colored glasses, H.E.R said she has found something that she loves and plans to do it forever. Given this statement, I have chosen to set my musical library to STAN this woman for as long as she decides to bless us with lyrical bops.
Speaking of never being placed in a box, remember when Cinderella was blessed with the gift of melanin? Brandy and Whitney “The Voice” Houston brought some soul and flavor to a childhood classic in the 1997 TV film. That performance marked Brandy as the first black Disney princess and became the only Cinderella I acknowledged. After that, many black girls began to see themselves in ways they thought were impossible. Their plain yellow pumpkins became golden carriages that whisked them off to a magical land of representation.
All of this is possible thanks to the powerhouse known as Debra Martin Chase. Chase was one of the executive producers behind this history-making film and her resume doesn’t stop there. With a career that began in law, Chase has been giving us eyes to see ourselves on screens for decades. From Cinderella to The Princess Diaries to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Chase has kept the theme of representation alive and well in Hollywood. While getting her award, Chase reflected on her mother reiterating that there were no limits on what she could do.
“Everyone has the power to be what they want to be inside of them,” Chase said. Continuing on her theme of empowerment, Chase ended by reminding us all of the importance of our voices. Chase made it clear that if we want change then we have to get out and vote, not only with our voices but with our voices and money. It is evident that we owe a great deal to Chase and thanks to her, many black girls will watch her work and be reminded that their space in this world has value.
Regina King’s role in 227 indeed reminded us that there was no place like home and it is in Hollywood that King has found her rightful abode. “Transitioning from child actor to an adult in the business was easy for me because I found something that I love,” said King during her acceptance speech. King said she accepted her true power when she “stopped worrying about judgement.” Pulling out a scroll as long as the eye can see, King began to dedicate her win to the black women who made space for her. The women that she listed nurtured King and gave her the strength to make it where she is today. It’s safe to say King, like us all, are grateful for black women’s roles in our lives.
At this point of the night the audience was given a wind that felt unstoppable. I myself felt as if I could conquer the world, or at the very least traverse back to Harlem from Jersey unscathed. I was empowered and filled with a sense of purpose and gracious to even be in a room filled with the gift that is the black woman. At this point I witnessed jaw-dropping performances, speeches of empowerment and fashions that inspired me to go into my closet and reevaluate my choices. It was at this moment that I would have been content if the show ended, but I didn’t know what was in store for me until there was a speech from the icon known as Angela Bassett.
Bassett was one of the many characters I looked to on television to see myself growing up. There weren’t many gay characters, so my focus was set on black women. Through her character I was shown resilience, compassion, and an acting range that has lasted decades. When she floated on that stage to accept her award the audience sat up in their chairs ready to receive whatever word she was going to give us.
Bassett could have told me that the sky was blue and it would have been as if she gave me the meaning of life. She could do no wrong in my eyes, so I, like many, were ready to be gifted with her words. Regina King introduced her and said her picture would be prominently displayed if you look up the term HBIC. A lie was not told. Bassett began by telling the audience that we all have a purpose, even if we’re still trying to figure out what it is. That first statement made me know that this speech could only go up from there and that I should prepare myself for an emotional ride. Though I was ill-prepared, I sat at attention.
Opening the doors of the church, Bassett said, “There might be times when you face obstacles, but that’s when you dig deep for courage and fortitude, and to never forget that despite life’s obstacles that you are destined for greatness.” After this statement there’s absolutely no way that you cannot break out into a sprint for Christ in praise and admiration. Biblical was the only way to describe the words Bassett blessed us with. Throughout her career she has kept her integrity at the forefront and those principles and morals have given her longevity in her career that our screens are better for. “Not only are you good enough, you are more than enough,” was how Bassett ended her speech and there was absolutely no way that you could stop listening and not tap into your inner greatness.
Every year we gather around to watch black women get the flowers they deserve with Black Girls Rock! A sense of empowerment is placed in us after every viewing and we leave our screen better than how we started the broadcast. The confidence exuded on screen is just a mere glimpse as to what black women possess. In my opinion, the word resilient was created because of black women. There is never a moment in history where we cannot thank them for their presence. They have molded us with their love and again, we are better because of it.