No one may be as excited as Beverly Bond for the 2013 edition of Black Girls Rock!, the awards show honoring African-American women airing on BET this Sunday, November 3 at 7 pm eastern time. That’s certainly fitting for the founder of this annual fête, which will celebrate some of the most iconic black women of all time.
“For me, I love every single show that we’ve ever done,” Bond told theGrio, “from the first one in 2006 when we only had two honorees, to now that we are on the network.”
Universal anticipation for this year’s show is certainly building. Tickets to last weekend’s taping at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center were coveted. For those who religiously watch, Black Girls Rock! has become the antidote to the stereotypes of African-American women studies show pervade media.
Having just inked a five-year deal to continue broadcasting this yearly extravaganza on BET, Black Girls Rock! will continue to be that cure. Named after her Black Girls Rock! organization that elevates the spirits of girls of color on the grassroots level, it only makes sense that Bond would use her show to perform that service on the mass level.
Here is more from the former model and celebrity DJ-turned-activist on inspiring the next generation of women, and Black Girls Rock! as an opportunity to uplift people of all ages.
theGrio: What’s going to make this year’s edition of Black Girl’s Rock! better than ever?
Beverly Bond: We have some amazing women that we’re honoring this year. Every year we try to have a diverse set of women who come from different sectors, who represent different generations, who represent different careers.
We are excited this year to have incredible women like Marian Wright Edelman, but to also have Ameena Matthews, who’s a violence interrupter in Chicago. We also have Mara Brock Akil, who inspires a lot of young women to do something that’s not traditional, being a Hollywood producer, a show runner, and creator of her own TV shows at a time when we still don’t have our voices out there.
Having Queen Latifah — nothing else needs to be said!
And then Misty Copeland — being able to expose young girls to this ballerina who went this nontraditional route, who’s in there in this world by herself, and still fighting for the rights of other black girls, and working on the idea of trying to find the next Misty Copeland.
Patti LaBelle performing in addition to being honored? That in itself is something that takes it to the next level.
There are so many great things about the show this year, I think people will be glued to their TVs.
Black Girls Rock! does extremely well in the ratings, beating out many other top-rated cable shows. How does it feel to know it has such great crossover appeal?
Before we went to TV we had crossover appeal. A lot of the people that helped me in the beginning were not always black women. We’ve had white women, we’ve had white men, we’ve had black men. This movement is really a women’s movement. It’s really a youth empowerment movement. And it definitely is a community activists’ movement in order to help people progress and get to the next level. When you recognize any type of injustice, certainly you are going to be able to draw in people who have that humanitarian spirit, and believe in just causes.
Can you speak to some of the negative messages that Black Girls Rock! is working to fight?
I think that there are a lot of messages in entertainment and media that degrade women. I think that there are a lot of new messages out there through reality television that offer that fighting is a viable solution for women to resolve conflict. All of these things for grown people maybe can be looked on as fun entertainment, but these messages are being aired in time frames when children can still be exposed to them.
There has to be some voice of reason or responsibility that says that this is not appropriate for kids.
In addition to your show, can you describe some of the things that Black Girls Rock! does during the year in order to help young women of color?
Our awards show is our annual, big event, but Black Girls Rock! is a year-round movement. We mentor girls all year round within the tri-state area. Also, we have our leadership camp. We bring girls in from all over the world. That’s a two-week intensive. This is something that we’ve been doing for the last three years, and our girls have come from as far away as Liberia, Japan, Jamaica, all across the United States, South Africa, London. So we get a great cross-section of girls from all over the world who are drawn to the message that Black Girls Rock! has put in the world.
Our whole mission is about empowering the next generation, and empowering our girls to become their best selves. Understanding the importance of integrity, and excellence, and having high standards, and the choices that they make and the consequences of choices. And understanding that they are not alone, understanding the importance of service, understanding the importance of sisterhood.
Those are the principles that we stand by. Our programming certainly reflects that.
Essence magazine for its November issue published the findings of its study on images of black women in media. The study found that negative images of black women are still prevalent. Can you comment on this study and what people can do, in addition to supporting Black Girls Rock!, to combat this negativity?
Certainly, stereotypes of black women are definitely prevalent. I think we all have to play a part in fighting it, but certainly black women, which is one of the reasons I started Black Girls Rock! We have to be the first to say “enough is enough,” and figure out ways in which to counter it.
For me, countering it was this movement. I think people can join in supporting the work we do, or find other organizations that do similar work.
When you have so many damaging messages in media and entertainment, aimed directly at our children coming from our urban stations, they enforce the stereotype. It’s very difficult to fight it. It looks like, “Oh, they are like this, because look at what they’re playing!” So that becomes the big issue. Sometimes we’re fighting outside our community, and sometimes we’re fighting within.
Comedian Kenan Thompson recently caused controversy by suggesting that black women are not talented enough to join the cast of Saturday Night Live. What message do you have for young black women to help them counter such limiting conceptions about what they can do?
What we do with Black Girls Rock! is show girls that they are not limited in anything that they do. But we also help them to achieve success. We help them understand you can’t just wish it.
This is a youth problem. This is not just a black person’s problem. I think in a lot of youth culture they are promoting the idea that you can skip steps. What we really try to do is ground our girls in the understanding of work ethic, discipline, high standards, integrity, and being proud of your impact. Being aware in walking in your purpose, and finding your way to your purpose. You have to teach children that.
You have to let them know that they matter, and that their lives matter. That their lives are important, and the things that they do, the things that they say, the things that they think and the actions that they take are going to make a difference in who they become.
Black Girls Rock! will air on BET this Sunday, November 3 at 7 pm EST.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.