A couple of weeks ago the phenomenal Black Girls Rock celebration aired on BET, the same night as the 6th season premier of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. In case you aren’t familiar with Black Girls Rock, it is founder Beverly Bonds’ televised showcase of amazing Black women and girls who are making a difference through politics, the arts, community service and sports.
I’m a huge fan of the non-profit organization that fosters Beverly’s dream of empowering and mentoring young women of color. It also concentrates of how women of color are portrayed in the media.
In some ways, Black Girls Rock could be considered the antithesis of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. But that might be a little too easy. After all, the reality show has changed the lives of the women it chronicles and given them each a platform for their businesses and talent (some that’s easier to identify than others). Love them or hate them, they all have achieved a certain level of fame and financial success by appearing on the highest rated and most profitable reality shows in the “Housewives” franchise.
Black Girls Rock is offering girls and young woman a platform as well, but more importantly it’s trying to catch them before they are stuck with the kinds of baggage and labels that has weighed down many of the women on RHOA. Some of them have had to confront a spotty past that as caught up with them and some are still running away from one. Either way, these women are now being defined in a way they have little power in changing.
Black Girls Rock’s platform is asking girls and young women to write their own stories, and it honors grown up women who have done it as well. Their stories aren’t perfect but that isn’t the point. They are using their gifts, talents and skills to give back because they understand what those coming behind have to face. They can’t remove the obstacles that might be in the way, but they can make the road a little smoother and help guide the paths.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta have done their fair share of giving back in one way or another. But for the most part by appearing in the reality show they’ve given up their power to tell their own stories. Writers, producers, directors and especially editors control the images we see each week and I have to believe that if the women had more control we’d see a much different picture. Even the biggest RHOA fans are getting tired of the show and say the original veterans of the series, NeNe, Phaedra and Cynthia are boring. I’m not sure if it’s because they’ve run out of drama or if the women have gotten smarter and less inclined to clown in front of the cameras.
I sort of wish the entire cast were part of Black Girls Rock to remind us that we really aren’t that different from each other. That everybody deserves a chance to sing a new song and write a new story they can be proud of.