There’s only one reason I go to the Bronx: for Black Girl’s Rock! For years now (and before the ceremony was aired on BET), the brainchild of model-turned-DJ Beverly Bond has been a must-attend social event in NYC, a veritable who’s who celebrating and affirming the greatness of Black girls. BGR! used to be a cozy but glamorous affair in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Then BET caught wind of all that Black girl — or, er, woman — goodness in one room, and decided to produce and package it for viewing by NYC and beyond. (Admittedly, it was a great idea.) And so the Bronx’s Paradise Theatre became its new home, and a two-hour ride from Brooklyn by car (or train) is what it took for me to attend this annual Moment. It was well worth every minute of the journey.
Last night, BET’s Black Girls Rock! came to a TV screen near all of us, and I watched like I hadn’t been sitting in the audience at the taping last month hanging on every word of Susan Taylor and Dionne Warwick’s acceptance speeches, singing along loudly and pitifully off-key to Alicia Keys’ performance of “Girl on Fire” and losing my mind when my mentee, Alize Beal, received the M.A.D. Girl award (which she kept top secret until the big reveal) for the nonprofit organization she co-founded. I was gasping at the fashion too, from Beverly Bond’s sexy backless number to Tracee Ellis Ross’s sparkly silver top (borrowed from her mama) to Regina King’s one-shoulder (with ruffles!) body-con dress, which highlighted her fabulous frame.
Let’s face it: It’s not every day that beautiful and talented Black women and their accomplishments are front and center (unless you’re, you know, reading your ESSENCE, “where Black women come first”). And as much shine as we might get at other awards shows, forgive me for being giddy about knowing there’s a another entire place — for us, by us — where we come front and center, not just for one or two special performances.
As Alicia Keys put it during her acceptance speech for the Rock Star Award, “No one knows you better than you.” Who else would anticipate that an appearance by the much-missed Missy Elliott would inspire a gaggle of Black women in black-tie attire to shriek, leap to their feet and start hard-core dancing in the aisles? I don’t think a mainstream show would know how beloved now flute-playing India Arie is to us, or that it would totally make sense to bring her out twice. I’m guessing someone else could have figured out that loving words from Idris Elba would have grown women squirming in their seats like that woman who sat front row at that Five Heartbeats concert — but would they have known SWV would still have Black women singing along to “Right Here” and “Weak” and full-on two-stepping?
As Prince Akeem’s bride said at the end of Coming to America, “Nahhhh.”
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk