Beverly Bond on the pink carpet of this year’s taping at New Jersey Performing Arts Center .
Almost every year during mainstream awards season there seems to be a sting when, inevitably, Black actresses, musicians and notables are passed over for awards…or simply left off the ballots all together. We felt it earlier this year when Kerry Washington was overlooked for a 2013 Best Actress Emmy but thankfully, Black Girls Rock! founder Beverly Bond has got plenty of love to go around for Black women at the eight annual awards show named after her non-profit organization, that airs this weekend.
After spending years in New York as a model and moving on to become a renowned DJ, Bond started her non-profit youth empowerment and mentoring organization in 2006 to promote the arts for young women of color as well as to encourage dialogue and analysis of the ways women of color are portrayed in the media. Now she executive produces the star-studded women-centric awards show for BET — the same network that she used to spin on shows like “106 & Park” and “Rap City: The Basement.” In its fourth year on TV, Black Girls Rock! will continue to help shine a light on the Black community’s entertainers, humanitarians, activist and other inspirational role models for our new generation, that are often overlooked.
We caught up with the mother of this movement to find out what’s in store for this year’s show and what’s next for BGR. Check it our Q&A below!
MUST READ: BLACK GIRLS ROCK! 23 Past & Present Honorees
HELLO BEAUTIFUL: As usual you’ve got a great list of honorees for the Black Girls Rock this year! How did you go about picking this year’s group with so many amazing women to choose from?
BEVERLY BOND: We always try to get a diverse collection of women from different generations, from different career paths, but the common denominator is that these women stand for something that is important for us. They are role models, they represent the nexus of achievement of women of color. They are our best sheroes in their sectors so we have various categories from our “Young Gifted and Black” to our “MAD Girls” which are our young girls making a difference under the age of 25, to our living legends like Patti LaBelle, and our social humanitarians like Marian Wright Edelman, community activist like Ameena Matthews, and our rock stars like Queen Latifah.
When I started Black Girls Rock it was important to me to make sure we highlighted these women that don’t always get their credit for what we have contributed to society and how much we’ve contribute. You know, there’s a plethora of Black women to choose from; it’s not difficult to find great women for this honor.
HB: Did you originally have the vision to take Black Girls Rock this far? What’s next for the organization?
BB: I’ve been in the process of working on my vision of what I saw this to be and in the process it came to life. Sometimes it throws me off a bit like ‘how is this happening? This is kind of crazy’ It’ll be at the most random moments like when we’re working on production of the show and we’re in production meetings and we’re in Craft Services and I’m like ‘wow all of these people are here for this, they’re employed, we’re working and happy to be working on this show. Everyone at BET feels so lifted after the show, everyone feels good about the work we’re doing. I’m like wow! This all came to life.
Certainly we have bigger plans to continue to do this empowering work in bigger ways, to continue to expand our mentoring program, to become more of a research and hub for ideation — we’re starting a Black Girls Rock! think tank — eventually we’re starting a boys program. So there are many, many plans to continue to do this work and do it in a big way.
HB: We know the mentoring and scholarship programs are such a big cornerstone of what Black Girls Rock! does. What are some great success stories have you come across while doing the work that have touched you?
BB: There are so, so many! We did a documentary in conjunction with My Black Is Beautiful called, “Imagine A Future,” that focused on one of our mentees. You watch her transformation from going from a girl who when she first got in touch with us she did not believe that she was beautiful. She’s a Black girl and she thought she was cursed; she thought being in black skin meant that you’re doomed. She tried to put Clorox on her skin to bleach herself.
When she got in touch with me she sent me a collage. She told me she was suicidal and hurting herself, cutting herself, and all because of the skin she was in. People don’t realize how much that sometimes these messages telling Black people who something is wrong with you because your Blackness is there, and then also the internal color issues we have in our community, these things have major effects on our kids, especially on girls who feel unwanted, unloved, not as important as the other girls in the world.
It’s unacceptable for our girls to feel as if they are unacceptable!
She said she was watching TV randomly and flipped passed the Black Girls Rock! program and she was like “what? Black girls rock?” She stopped in her tracks; she was floored. It has changed her. It changed her view of herself. Now when I tell you this girl is the most confident girl you will ever meet, she loves who she is, loves her beautiful black features!
We took her to Africa, we took her to Sara Baartman’s grave, we took her to The Cradle of Humankind in South Africa and it was a really powerful experience. The transformation started before we did the documentary on her but it was a continuation. That’s one of our biggest stories and in it you can kind of see what we do; all of our mentees in the program and you can see this girl’s transformation as a direct result with us working with her and her family to help change her attitude. Now she’s an inspiration and a beacon of hope for others.
HB: Who are some of your inspirations?
BB: I’m inspired by all of the women we honor obviously, but I’m also inspired by the women in my family, the women who taught me what I know: my grandmother, my mother, my aunties. Then just women in history: Angela Davis has always been a powerful figure to me — I’m attracted to Afros! — so Angela, Pam Grier. I’m always inspired when I hear powerful stories of women in history like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. My mother was very adamant that I knew some of the pillars in our history. Shirley Chisholm was also someone who’s always appealed to me; I just love the audacity of who she was. So many women! Even as a DJ, the support for me really came from women. I didn’t even know, I wasn’t aware of it at first but women appreciated the way I represented them as a women in a male dominated field.
I hear people all the time subscribe to this theory that women can’t get along and we don’t like each other. I’m not going to say that people don’t have those experiences but I would say let’s not categorize that and make it about women, verses a person’s experience with a particular or particular women. I really do think there are incredible women all over the world.
Tune into this year’s star-studded awards show on BET, Sunday, November 3 at 7PM/6C and be sure to follow us at @HelloBeautiful as we live Tweet!