Yes, We Rock!

The notion of an awards show called ‘Black Girls Rock!’ made me skeptical at first, but then I watched it and discovered the purpose behind the movement is actually compatible with my faith.

A week ago, I was reminded of something that I didn’t realize I needed to be reminded of. I’m a Christian, so I know that I am loved, that I was created with and for a purpose, that I have power available to me that doesn’t come from this world. But as a Christian black woman, I was reminded that I also rock.

I haven’t had cable television for years, so this was my first time watching the BET broadcast of the Black Girls Rock! awards event. And when I saw previews for the show, old questions like those that have been asked since the initiation of Black History week-later expanded to Black History month-crossed my mind. Questions like, Is this type of show really necessary? If white women televised an event called “White Girls Rock,” blacks would go crazy and call it racist. Isn’t this kind of show racist, too? And finally, any recognition of girls and women automatically includes black girls, so why should the whole society have to especially recognize black girls?

On a more personal level, I wanted to form a faith-based opinion of both the movement and the show that would be airing. So I asked myself, Is it okay for me, as a Christian woman, to accept a recognition and celebration of something created specifically to honor just women of color, particularly black women? Is this an exclusionary event, and what’s the right way to think about it?

Furthermore, I must admit to a little stereotypical thinking. Was everyone going to look like an audition prospect for a Lil Wayne video? If so, I was definitely not interested. So I felt some hesitation. But I am so glad I did watch.

The power of the show comes from the purpose of the movement. Black Girls Rock! was started by former model and DJ Beverly Bond as a way to “build the self-esteem and self-worth of young women of color by changing their outlook on life, broadening their horizons, and helping them to empower themselves.” Her organization does this by exposing girls age 12-17 to diverse arts-based experiences including writing, Broadway performances, and a workshop that teaches DJ’ing skills and techniques. Back in 2006 when she started BGR, Ms. Bond was concerned about young black girls’ likely inability to process and resist the onslaught of negative media images of themselves, and the consequences they were vulnerable to because of that inability. Five years later, Black Girls Rock! has evolved into a meaningful brand which includes the awards telecast.

Check out the video below for background on the movement’s history:

Everything about the show reflected not only BGR’s purposes to uplift and inspire, but also Ms. Bond’s personal commitment to integrity, a visual ethic, and dignity. The overarching themes of strength and resilience were strikingly displayed in Mara Brock Akil’s characterization of black women as those who never give up, and her entreaty to us to make our voices heard in all kinds of conversations at every level in society. This was echoed in Angela Davis’ Icon award acceptance speech in which she challenged black girls to imagine themselves part of a community of resistance. Jill Scott’s bold performance of “Womanifesto,” Estelle’s haunting “Thank You” to a former lover, and Mary Mary’s vibrant  remake of “Keep Your Head to the Sky” were part of a memorable soundtrack of the evening.

What pulled the whole experience together for me was the segment highlighting the role of faith in helping black girls experience the strength and resilience they are being encouraged to develop. Seeing Shirley Caesar accept the Living Legend Award resonated with me as a Christian and helped answer my questions about possible conflicts between the movement and the Christian faith.

My hesitations are eased because I see that while this effort to specifically empower black girls and women could possibly be portrayed as a misguided and exclusionary attempt to engender feelings of superiority, it is actually just the opposite. It challenges the exclusionary rhetoric of superiority by strengthening the self concept of those being excluded as inferior, and elevating equality as the basis of inclusion. In fact, this movement could be especially game-changing for Christian women of color by helping us re-frame our identity so that we include ourselves among those creations of God which He called “good,” rather than how others image us. It actually puts ethnicity in perspective. Ethnicity and color are means to an end, not ends unto themselves. They are ways to show the glory, beauty, and wisdom of God; to demonstrate the truth of His claim that He uses the things considered weak in the world’s eyes to shame those who consider themselves mighty (1 Cor. 1:27); and to prove to us that because He has overcome the racism, prejudice, misperception, and oppression of the world, we can too (John 16:33).

So to all the black girls and women out there who love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, yes, we rock too!

If you’d like to encourage a girl or woman of color you know who rocks, give her a shoutout by listing her name in the comments section below.  

About the author, Chandra White-Cummings

Chandra White-Cummings is a columnist for UrbanFaith, a freelance writer, and nonprofit consultant. She also teaches and encourages moms to pray for their children at her blog and website, Hearts Like Water: Praying for Our Children in Times Like These
  1. To my mom Dorothy White, the most dedicated disciple of Christ I know, You Rock!

    To Marsha Taylor-Evans, who has stood by me through thick, thicker, and thin, You Rock!

    To the ladies of Beautiful-Shannell, Dominique, and Aseia: for having the courage to embrace truth and change your life, You Rock!

    To my sister Tiffany, for keeping it moving through obstacles and setbacks, You Rock!

  2. Hello my name is Shakendall Wise, I would like to know how I can get my daughter into black girls rocks organization. My daughter is a eight year old little girl who wants to be much older then she is. I struggle every day with teaching her how a young lady should act, and carry herself. I have seen you guys on BET and I enjoyed the show so much. I know right then that Black Girls Rock was where I really would like to get my daughter into, or volunteer.
    I wish that black girls rock was out when I was growing up. I don’t want to get into my past and try to get brownie points for a story about my past. Right now it’s about my daughter getting a chance in life to becoming a young girl.

  3. Francine, Priscilla, Charlotte, and Karmen are four smart and beautiful black girls of character who rock! I thank God for them and all the others out there who are putting God and education first.

  4. @ shakendall: If you’d like for your daughter to be part of the Black Girls Rock! programs, here’s a link to their application: http://blackgirlsrockinc.com/live/2012-2013-bgr-program-application . UrbanFaith is separate from and not affiliated with Black Girls Rock! so please direct any questions you have about the application process to them. Hope your daughter is able to become a part of it.

    I want to encourage you, too. Everyone has a past. When I am tempted to let my past dominate me, and hinder my forward motion, I try to remember how God always instructed the Israelites to handle their past in Egypt. He said to remember, not the slavery they experienced, but to remember that he delivered them from it. So embrace His deliverance from the past, and determine in your heart to move forward with all the strength and grace He gives you. You are not alone!!!

  5. I felt the same skepticism about the show just as you did. I myself am a Christian and I have gotten to where I monitor everything I allow my eyes and mind to absorb. I to was like “oh good, another show to seperate black women from everyone else”. To be honest, I still have not watched it. After seeing the commercials come on continuously, I decided to search the web and see what others had to say about it. Fortunately, after reading your evaluation of it, I will check it out next time it comes on. Thanks

  6. @Chasity, so glad this helped you. I’d love to hear what you think after you watch it.

  7. Pingback: Third World Press Fundraising Program | Sisters and Citizens, Part 1: An Interview with Melissa Harris-Perry

  8. Pingback: Sisters and Citizens, Part 1: An Interview with Melissa Harris-Perry | In His Image