This weekend, BET and Centric air Black Girls Rock! and awards show that celebrates the achievements of African-American women in different areas of entertainment, social justice, business and more. This year’s honorees were director Ava Duvernay, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, Brooklyn middle school principal Nadia Lopez, Cicely Tyson, Erykah Badu and medical activist Dr. Helene Gayle.
But this year, a pretty important Black Girl was front and center to proclaim Black Girls Rock! First Lady Michelle Obama made her first appearance on the show, and her appearance didn’t come without controversy. Some feel that Black Girls Rock! is exclusionary and that Obama’s support meant that she was supporting that exclusion.
Black Girls Rock! founder Beverly Bond said that Mrs. Obama’s declaration was important to Black girls and women who see themselves as devalued, disrespected and unlovable. That feeling is compounded by the realities of systemic racism, negative media images and more.
“It was a powerful moment and I can’t wait to see how it translates to the world. It’s really surprising that so many people don’t understand why we need to affirm ourselves,” Bond said. “It’s telling to the lack of understanding they have about our history. The fact that they don’t understand the need for affirming messages for Black girls to affirm our beauty, our power, our strength, our fortitude is like telling us we don’t need to teach our kids to read. Are we not supposed to empower our kids? Are we not supposed to empower our women?”