The Black Girls Rock! annual awards show broadcast this past Sunday on BET was phenomenal not only for its stellar list of honorees, but also for its incredible performances.
Patti LaBelle received a statuette from the organization — which mentors young women of color — for her decades of accomplishments as a singer, author and more. She also brought down the house with a memorable rendition of her seminal hit, “You Are My Friend,” which brought the audience of hundreds to their feet at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. (The show that aired on November 3 was taped in front of an excited live audience on October 26.)
Jennifer Hudson sported a new cropped hairdo while she debuted her latest single, the bouncy track, “I Can’t Describe.” She worked in some sleek choreography to match the highly-danceable tune.
Janelle Monáe gave an energetic rendition of the title track from her The Electric Lady album. After fashion designer Rick Owen brought step shows center stage in the style and culture world just in September, Monáe used the dance form indigenous to black college campuses to make her performance of “Electric Lady” crackle with life.
Jennifer Hudson was not the only pop star to make a comeback. Kelly Rowland performed her sweet song “Gone” with a team of black women, including Eve who thrilled the balcony audience with a rap interlude delivered from the mezzanine, and newcomer Sevyn Streeter, guest singer on the track. “Gone” also cleverly uses the Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi” as the basis for the chorus, taking a cue from Janet Jackson’s “Got ’til It’s Gone.” Talk about girl power and team work among amazing women!
Alice Smith made a stunning impression. Standing center stage, Smith belted out her opus “Fool For You,” crooning into a single mic. Blasting hot white lights pulsed behind her, accenting the emotional turmoil described in the lyrics.
Neo soul star Ledesi almost trumped Jennifer Hudson’s big style reveal with her illusion lace netting cat suit, which showed off her figure to perfection. Her song, “I Blame You,” was perfectly suited to match her incredible vocal range.
While not strictly a performance, a touching moment of the Black Girls Rock! awards extravaganza came when fellow diva Mariah Carey bestowed the award on honoree Patti LaBelle. A meeting of two truly great black women.
Glee star and Dancing With the Stars contestant Amber Riley also brought the theme of Black Girls Rock! to life with her take on the timeless feminist classic, “I Am Woman.”
Other honorees of the evening included activist, lawyer, and president of the Children’s Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman; actor, rapper, singer and talk show host and producer Queen Latifah; television and film producer and writer Mara Brock Akil; tennis star Venus Williams; ballet dancer and soloist Misty Copeland; and Chicago violence interrupter Ameena Matthews.
It was a night of elevation and sharing among the African-American women honored and those watching at home who enjoyed the opportunity to partake of positive images of black women — which a recent report finds are rare in pop culture.
Black Girls Rock! honors African-American women every year during its awards ceremony to complement its year-round activities aimed at inspiring and uplifting women of color and their allies. To learn more about the organization, which was founded by former model and celebrity DJ Beverly Bond, visit the Black Girls Rock! web site.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.