NEWARK, NJ—The hottest stars gathered at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center for the 10th annual Black Girls Rock! Awards on Friday night (April 1). Honoree’s included Rihanna, Shonda Rhimes, Amandla Sternberg, Danai Gurira and living legend Gladys Knight. It also included performances from Jazmine Sullivan, Brandy, Andra Day, Lauryn Hill and many more. Hosted by the whimsical Tracee Eliis Ross, BGR was a night full of inspiration, joy and black girl magic.
Here, REVOLT brings to you the five most powerful moments from the show.
Every Black Girl Needs a Fairy Godmother
Erykah Badu kicked things off with presenting The Walking Dead superstar, Danai Gurira, with the Star Power award. When accepting her award Gurira gave a heartfelt speech full of self-acceptance and gratitude. She mentioned that every black girl needs a black fairy god mother or someone to look up to. For her, that beautiful fairy was Maya Angelou. She further explained that following Angelou and her journey allowed her to step into her uniqueness and showed her that she was what the world was waiting for, even if the world wasn’t ready to acknowledge her. After giving advice to every black girl out there on how to forge their own path she ended with these compelling words, “I am so grateful to be a black woman, I would be jealous if I was anything else.”
Oh, To Be Young, Gifted and Black
Mom-to-be Tatyana Ali graced the stage and presented actress and activist Amandla Sternberg with the Young, Gifted and Black Award. Stenberg is known for her role as Rue in blockbuster film “The Hunger Games,” as well as fighting for cultural appropriation, feminism and equality for young women. During her video montage, that was shown before she accepted her award, Stenberg talked about how she received backlash when the news was released that she, a black girl, would be playing Rue and through that she experienced her first encounter with racism. During her acceptance speech she elaborated on cultural appropriation and let it be known that she didn’t think it was logical for people who are not black to take the culture and make it their own. “My blackness does not inhibit me from being beautiful and intelligent, in fact it is the reason why I am beautiful and intelligent,” said Stenberg.
That Moment When a Legend Honors Another Legend
The beautiful Kelly Rowland joined the fun to present Gladys Knight with the Living Legend award. However, before Gladys could accept her award, Rowland introduced Gladys’ longtime friend and singer, Dionne Warwick, to the stage. Warwick reminisced about how the two met, telling the audience stories how they formed such a close bond. Gladys Knight then graciously walked up to while the all-women band played Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For.” The audience gazed in awe as this woman full of timeless elegance accepted her award stating it was the best and greatest trophy that she’s ever received, and it meant more to her than a Grammy. The power in that statement alone spoke volumes.
She Calls The Shots, Shots, Shots
My heart stopped when my black fairy godmother adorned the stage; dancer, choreographer, television director and producer, Ms. Debbie Allen. She was there to present the Shot Caller award to the queen of Thursday night primetime television, Shonda Rhimes. During Shonda’s acceptance speech she delivered the most encouraging and inspirational words of the night.
“For those of us up here on the stage, our careers have been named. Our paths have been chosen. We have picked our mountains and we have started to climb it. Because the minute someone starts giving you awards, you are more history than future. Your slates are blank. Your paths are clear and your stories are whatever you decide they’re going to be. You are the builders of the 21st century. You have the right to the universe. You were given the right simply by being born, so you already rock.”
With a nickname like Bad Gal RiRi many wouldn’t take the ANTI superstar as a role model, but Rihanna proved that she is indeed a black girl who rocks—and an inspiration to many. The moment everyone was waiting for arrived and RiRi was coming to the stage to accept her Rock Star award. She teared up as she walked to the podium and then she gave one of the most pure and honest acceptance speeches of the night. “The only thing that’s kept me successful is being myself, I only know how to do that. And the minute you learn to love yourself, you would not want to be anybody else.”
Overall, Black Girls Rock! was galvanizing. Having all of those beautiful, black powerful women in one room was so invigorating to watch. So many gems were dropped, so many lessons were learned and it gave all of the young black girls in that theater motivation to be greater than what they already are. We live in a world where society and peer groups bamboozle you into thinking you have to look or act like somebody else in order to be accepted. When in reality all you have to do is be true to who you are, and remember that being a black girl...rocks.
Be sure to tune in to Black Girls Rock! on Tuesday (April 5) at 8:00 p.m. on BET.