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Reflecting on #BlackGirlsRock

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April 6, 2015

Last night, I watched the airing of the Black Girls Rock Award Show on BET. It was lovely seeing the women I look to as current icons of black women excellence in the world of entertainment. The quirky Tracee Ellis Ross, the funky Janelle Monae, the soulful Jill Scott,  the mesmerizing Jada Pinkett, and the intelligent First Lady Michelle Obama. In the days leading up to the event. other hashtags like #allgirlsrock and #whitegirlsrock, emerged. Apparently, these same hashtags emerged two years ago in the lead up to the previous Black Girls Rock Award Show.

The President and CEO of Black Girls Rock, Beverly Bond, addressed the hashtag in an article titled, “Exclusive: Black Girls Rock! Founder Hits Back at Insulting #whitegirlsrock“.

She states:

“As a humanist, I believe that we all rock. My issue is that the commentary that followed the “#whitegirlsrock” hashtag was not even about affirming dynamic white women. Instead, it was about critiquing or even punishing black women for having the nerve, the audacity and the unmitigated gall to love and affirm ourselves!”

Acknowledging the excellence, beauty, and intelligence of black women in the United States does not and should not take away from the power that women as a collective wield. Furthermore, any event or non-profit organization that recognizes the achievements of any oppressed group and works to ensure their upliftment should be praised.

Black Girls Rock is more than event. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit that facilitates conversations about the portrayals of black women in the media and mentors young women.

In any case, the backlash as well as the Black Girls Rock event got me thinking about several things.

1. It is becoming more clear that the underlying stereotypes and identities that exist for men and women are limiting considering that identities like intersex and gender-non conforming exist. How do movements that target a particular gender become more cognizant of the ways they exclude people who live outside or at the margin of these identities?

2. Where are the openly LGBTQUIA Black Girls who Rock At?

3.The images we see in print, media, and film reinforce  what is considered beautiful and acceptable. Other images explore what is undesirable. In communities of color, images that portray people of color in a less than pristine manner are  sometimes deemed unacceptable. I have found that this prevents people from playing complex lead characters. For instance, Kerry Washington (Scandal)  and Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder)  play powerful flawed sexy women . Should people of color stick with  these cookie cutter images of black excellence (i.e. The Cosby Show) instead? What are its implications?

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