Ask 100 people why award shows such as Black Girls Rock! are important, and I’m sure the plethora of answers will astound you. While some may say it’s influential because of the fashion or that we have to have black representation on TV, allow me to say from personal experience that shows such as Black Girls Rock! are necessary for much deeper purposes. We need to see that women like us are shaping our communities and making strides in various industries. We need to show girls of all shapes, sizes and colors that it’s no longer “being sorry and colored at the same time” (For Colored Girls, Ntozake Shange) but rather, being black doesn’t mean you’re insignificant–now girl, you rock!
Take it from a black girl who, for many years, didn’t think she rocked at all.
AND BEFORE Y’ALL SAY ANYTHING IN THE COMMENTS: I had a pinched nerve in my back last week so I couldn’t wear heels. I am very much so aware my jumpsuit should have had an inch or two hemmed. Oh well :)
When I entered middle school, I immediately felt myself pushing against the social rules of what was deemed ‘cool’: I wanted to create my own look, aesthetic, and voice. It felt like everyone looked, acted, and dressed the same, and I wanted to be different. The easiest way for me to do this was to experiment with my hair and clothing choices, so I used to make my mother take me to vintage shops outside of the city just to find something I could guarantee was one of a kind. I didn’t want to look like everyone else, I wanted to look like Jame’.
Kids in my class would bully me every single day (cyberbullying, mental, physical) hurling insults to my face, insinuating accusations and childlike games to mock my clothing and hair choices. I was picked on for my weight (ya girl ain’t get curves till she hit college), my hair, my skin, and even for my love of the theater and wanting an ever-expansive vocabulary (so pretty much I was picked on because I was studious). Disclaimer: I was a VERY artsy, bohemian chick in my younger years, so even I don’t like looking at some of my outfit choices, haha. Regardless, the point is I was a young black girl, getting insulted and bullied by OTHER black girls simply because I wanted to be myself. I wanted to be carefree and find out what life had to offer me, on my own terms, in my own voice, my own way. And that was a problem to a whole group of people who SHOULD have been uplifting me instead of wanting to tear me down.
But all things happen for a reason, and I’ve learned to take lemons in life and make them Mimosas.
After years of tackling internal self-deprecative ways, realizing that those that hurt people are themselves hurt, and that I wanted to be an advocate for self-expression, one day I looked in the mirror and saw what my mother and friends had told me for years: I was a beautiful black girl. Not beautiful just in the ‘traditional’ sense, but that who I am was beautiful. I realized when I hit my late teens and early 20s that being anyone else but myself was too complicated, time-consuming and frustrating; inevitably, I realized that I would be extremely jealous if I were anyone else but myself, simply because in my own unique charismatic way, I rocked.
When my fabulous mentor/Mama Bear Claire invited me to attend Black Girls Rock! with her this year, I had no idea of the life-changing feeling I would experience as SOON as I walked in the door. Aside from the overwhelming amount of beautiful melanin that flooded the rooms, it felt amazing to be surrounded by other thought-provoking Black women and children working to change this world one black girl at a time. It felt good to be encouraged by the voices and the thoughts and mannerisms of other women who had experienced similar things as me, but how we have turned our tests into our TESTIMONIES and used our stories to help those around us. Black women CAN come together and embrace our differences without tearing each other apart; therefore, we should all be unapologetically ourselves.
Black Girls Rock! meant so much to me because knowing what life was like as a black girl who couldn’t see her own light, to now writing for a website that pushes nothing but Black excellence, black social-cultural critique, and sheer Black Girl Magic… it reaffirms my purpose on this Earth. My mother is a Black Girl that rocks, my Grandmother is a Black Girl that rocks, my mentor is a Black Girl that rocks…who am I to be any different? This proves that not only do I rock, but that every young woman and girl out there has the potential to define herself, and pull from the depths of her soul to speak her voice, and not silence it.
Although cliche, I thank God for the trials of my life, because if I didn’t know what it was like to not love me for me, I wouldn’t appreciate and advocate for it so much as I continue to grow. I want other girls to shine in their light and change the world! We all have a responsibility to uplift and encourage each other as women and women of color through a society that wasn’t made with us in mind. We are beautiful people who all rock. No matter where you started, where you’ve been placed or what life has thrown at you, you can definitely finish on top. And this is why, Black Girls Rock!
Special thanks to Marta for the beautiful photos, Dark & Lovely and BET for having us, and Claire Sulmers for creating spaces that allow transparency.