The 10th annual Black Girls Rock extravaganza opened with a full stage performance by host Tracee Ellis Ross. She changed costumes, wigs and outfits multi times and transitioned from one persona and performance to another right on stage. She was on point and hilarious.
Star Power Award
The first winner of the evening was actress and playwright Danai Gurira who received the Star Power Award. Erykah Baudu presented her the award. “Thank you so much. Wow, thank you!”
She read her acceptance speech and thanked BET. She told Black girls out there that we do indeed rock, because we are not always told that. She said Mya Angelou was the person who aspired her. “I can’t believe my good fortune. I would be so jealous if I were anything else.”
Young Gifted and Black Award
Tatyana Ali was the next presenter. She said,” Our next winner is actress and activist who played the role of Ru in The Hunger Games, her name, Amandla Stenberg.” After the in-depth video introduction about her career and describing the racism she faced, Amandla was awarded the Young Gifted and Black Award.
Tatyana Ali said to Amandla , “For being unabashedly brilliantly please accept the Young Gifted and Black Award.”
“I am filled with so much gratitude and warmth.” She thanked BET and the woman who raised her. She talked about being concerned about her hair and not being able to make it different or make it less big. But ended her speech with acceptance and pride of who she is and said, “Thank you so much! Black Girls Rock!”
Jazmine Sullivan followed with the second performance of the broadcast and sang Masterpiece.
Living Legend Award
Next Tracee introduced Kelly Rowland to begin the tribute to Gladys Knight. Gladys won the Living Legend Award. In her video Gladys told her own story about how she came to fame and how she survived the music business. She talked about he highs and the lows and how she is grateful for her life and her journey.
Dionne Warwick then came to the stage and joined Kelly Rowland to salute Gladys. She said they met in a little theater in Brooklyn. She said she wanted to be a Pip, but she wouldn’t let her. Kelly called Gladys to the stage to receive her honor.
Gladys said, “This is simply amazing. It is the best award, the greatest trophy that I’ve ever received.” She spoke of the racism she experienced as a young person, and said that her mother helped her through it all. She ended her acceptance speech by saying, “For 68 years I’ve been doing this and you have been lifting me up. I love you so much for the best prize I could ever have won.”
After the break Brandy took the stage to perform Beggin & Pleadin, and dropped the mike when she was done.
Maya Penn was one of the M.AD. Girls, a young talent honored during the broadcast. She makes hats, scarves, head bans and more, and is an extremely talented young entrepreneur. She is definitely a Black Girl Who Rocks!
Next Tracee introduced Andra Day who performed Rise Up. The song brought tears to her eyes that she had to wipe away.
Community Change Agent Award
Iyanla Vanzant was the next presenter to honor the Black Lives Matters founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. They won the Community Change Agent Award. They energized Black Lives Matters to amplify their voices and join together with people all across the globe.
Alicia was home with a new baby, but Patisse and Opal accepted the award. “Thank you to the Black Girls Rock community. We are truly honored and humbled to accept this award.” They called out each community fighting for the life of a Black life that has been taken.
They said they didn’t start the Black Lives moment, but they are honored to path the way for Black dignity. They received an standing ovation at the end of their acceptance speech.
Tracee than introduced another collaborative performance by Corinne Baily Rae, Marsha Ambrosius and Imani Uzuri who sang I’ll Write a Song for You by Earth, Wind & Fire.
The next performer was Monica who sang Alone In Your Hear backed up by a beautiful stage production. She finished the song holding her own daughter.
The next M.A.D. Girl was Molly Diaz. She was honored for creating the hash tag 1000 Black Girl Books. She’s only eleven years old and she’s in 6th grade. She collected 1000 books about Black Girls and gave them to a school in Jamaica.
Hillary Clinton made a surprise appearance on Black Girls Rocks and thanked Debra Lee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET and Black Girls Rocks founder and Executive Producer, Beverly Bond. Clinton said, “When Black women rock, Black families rock and the world rocks.” “My life has been changed by strong Black women.” She delivered a powerful speech and received rousing applause as she introduced Beverly Bond.
Beverly took the stage and received her honor from Hillary Clinton. She thanked Secretary Clinton and congratulated and saluted all the honorees. “Today Black Girls magic is in full effect.”
She said we still have a lot of issues, “Our Black is not beautiful, but our features can be bought to enhance the beauty of other women.” “I started Black Girls Rock because I love us and I believe in us.” She thanked Debra Lee, her entire team, her husband and her family, because she said, “I did not do this alone.”
Shot Caller Award
Debbie Allen was next and introduced the incredible Shonda Rhimes. Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy; Shonda Lynn Rhimes is a prolific creator. After the video description of her career, Shonda took the stage.
Shonda won the Shot Caller Award. The audience rose in unison to celebrate Shonda. She thanked Beverly, Black Girls Rock and BET. She thanked Debbie Allen and mentioned her daughter Harper in the audience and said she wanted her to see and feel the energy of the event. “You are the builders of the 21st Century.” She said, “mostly what I ask is what are you going to do with that. Be someone extraordinary. Change the world and when you’re done with that change it again”
Tracee came back to introduce the performance by Gladys Knight. If I Was Your Woman was her first song. Gladys killed it. She followed with Midnight to Train Georgia. The audience danced and stood through her entire performance. She sang Love Overboard next. Her look and sound was amazing.
The Next M.A.D. Girl was Hallie Thomas. She rocked cooking healthy meals and completely reversed her father’s diabetes. She founded the Happy Organization which teaches how to cook and eat healthy.
Rock Star Award
Bethann Hardison was the next presenter. She introduced Rihanna. Rihanna won the Rock Star Award. The winner of eight Grammy Awards is an International Pop Icon and entrepreneur. Bethann called her a rock star to her very core as Rihanna took the stage to accept the honor.
The audience roared for her. She thanked Beverly and BET. She was appreciative that all the honorees were being celebrated. She thanked her mother and said maybe one day she will be raising her own little Black Girl Who Rocks. She said being herself has kept her successful and said, “The minute you love yourself you won’t want to be anybody else.” She ended her speech by saying, “I love you guys! All girls rock. I love you.”
Tracee came back to introduce Lauryn Hill. She performed Lost Ones, and she worked it!
All the honorees along with Debra Lee and Beverly Bond joined Tracee to bring the program to a close. Tracee ended by saying,”To all our Black Girls everywhere get up and continue to rock!
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Rock On Ladies!