There's no doubt the Black Girls Rock movement has already had an impact outside the United States. But now, it's officially going global. Plans for Black Girls Rock Africa were announced during BET's Black Girls Rock 2016 award show taping on Friday.
I was lucky to attend the taping for a second year in a row. As a black girl born in the U.S., raised in Canada, and who studied in Australia, the expansion plans are welcome news to me. The issues black women and girls face go far beyond geographic borders. My black girlfriends all across the world have the same challenges I do when it comes to representation and advancement.
There's also no denying the international reach of black women like Rihanna, Shonda Rhimes, and Gladys Knight for example. All three are being honored by Black Girls Rock this year, along side actresses Amandla Stenberg and Danai Gurira, and the founders of Black Lives Matter.
The message I got from everyone on the red carpet this year: it's time for black women to collectively rise up and for the world to wake up!
"This is a start. It's to let everybody know that we do have women that work hard, have their self-respect, and are trying to achieve things to make this a better world. So many other people are not thinking about that," said singer Gladys Knight. "It's up to us to make this a better world, to take care of our children, and give them a platform to work with," she said.
Social media is clearly playing a key roll. The hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackGirlMagic have become worldwide trending topics.
"I think our message to black girls around the world is we are an integral part of any movement that is trying to be successful and we can be anything we want to be," said Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Alicia Garza.
"It's an amazing time in history where we see people coming from all walks of life joining the struggle and taking a moment to, like tonight, to celebrate and keep us going on," said Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Opal Tometi. "We are unapologetic about our fantastic fabulousness and you should be too," she said.
R&B singer Monica Brown performed during the broadcast. She said it was important to have her young daughter there too.
"I wanted her to see all the amazing women that have influenced me and that are making a difference in the world, especially in our communities," said Monica Brown. "The dope part about this show in particular is that you don't have to celebrity. You have to be a person that really is committed to something good," she said.
Singer Marsha Ambrosius, who hails from the UK, credits Black Girls Rock founder Beverly Bond for doing much needed work.
"Black girls rock everywhere. But this is a night ten years in to celebrate what Beverly Bond has build for a foundation of young girls coming up, who aspire to be, [and who] look up to women of color, that have done so many wonderful things; Whether it's in entertainment or philanthropy," said Marsha Ambrosius. "I'm just thankful that Beverly is able to get us all in one room and celebrate that to the tenth power," she said.
The need to celebrate ourselves is something others echoed too.
"I think a huge part of learning how to be a black girl who rocks, or how to make some black girl magic, is letting go of those messages that we've received that we aren't beautiful, radiant, or smart, intelligent, and capable," said actress Amandla Stenberg.
"I'm so excited. It's going to be a beautiful night. I can't wait to celebrate other black girls who rock," said singer Kelly Rowland.
"We deserve to be seen on covers and doing shows and stuff like that, just like any other woman does. We are every woman," said singer Jazmine Sullivan.
"You know how rare a moment, as a black girl, you can walk in a room and it's about us, it's so awesome," said model and actress Eva Marcille.
The awards show itself is filled with some awesome performances and even a little Presidential politics. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton made an appearance. Highlighting just how valuable our votes are as black women.
"We are in a critical time in our country where we're fighting for women's equality," said Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network CEO Valeisha Butterfield-Jones."We have to come together and really fight for what's ours," she said.
If you tune into the show on you'll definitely hear some moving speeches. I left feeling inspired and empowered. I hope Black Girls Rock continues its global expansion beyond what's already planned. Black women in Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and beyond need the same kind of encouragement. It really feels like our time is now.
You can watch full videos of my red carpet interviews on my blog's YouTube channel. Black Girls Rock airs April 5 at 8 p.m. EST on BET.
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