This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the 5th Annual Black Girls Rock Awards in New York. The show was amazing in many ways, but more importantly, it was a socially relevant, uplifting tribute to black women in general. The show paid tribute to seven incredibly inspiring women from the iconic Ruby Dee to relative newcomer Keke Palmer. Each woman’s acceptance speech was filled with touching memories about their journeys, sacrifices, trials and tribulations. Many of them credited their families and friends for molding them and inspiring them to become what they are today… The Awards featured a very inspirational segment where various Hollywood women boldly proclaimed why they ROCK! Essence ran a segment a few months ago in the magazine about “Why Black Women Rule.” I was so moved by both of these features, it got me thinking, “What is about Black women that makes us special?” “Why do we rock?” We rock because we are strong women! We rule because we are fearless women! We are independent women who must make our way in a man’s (often white man’s) world. We often make it look easy when it is anything but. After the awards, I was speaking to some friends about how inspired I was by the “Why I Rock” segment. All of the featured women had overcome personal or professional obstacles, challenged social institutions and broke barriers and glass ceilings in the process. So, I asked my friends the same question, “Why do you Rock?” Each one said, “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.” And that became their Sunday mandate. Of course, if someone asked me what is so special about my friends, I could, without hesitation, offer up at least 10 reasons why each of them ROCK, but we often have a hard time giving ourselves that well deserved pat on the back. The funny thing I discovered is that we as black women are also a humble bunch. I started with my mother, who not only rocks, but she is my rock and my inspiration. I called to pose the question to her, and she was nowhere to be found. Undoubtedly, she was out with her 3 grandsons, who she nearly raises. She helps with their homework every night, transports them to and fro, and when my brother was going through a difficult separation, she brought the kids to live with her for nearly a year. My mom is 74 and has the energy of a 34-year-old. She was a single parent who put three children through private schools — and kept us off the streets and focused on education — which ultimately paid off. Weezie, as I sometimes call her, selflessly gives to her kids, grandkids, friends, church and book club — and always looks fly in the process. Oh yeah, I’d say she rocks! Next, I asked my long-time friends the same question. Crystal McCrary is one of my oldest friends in New York. We met when I first moved to New York when we were married law students, full of optimism. Two divorces and a lifetime later, nothing worked out as planned, but we kept it moving. Crystal quickly abandoned law for her creative side and became a two-time successful author and movie producer. When asked, Crystal said she rocks because she “continues to rise, using adversity and challenges as motivation” and she teaches her children to do the same. With 18 years of friendship and life struggles behind us, I can attest to that. Crystal makes single motherhood look easy, when I know it is anything but. I then turned to my fellow Singlistas, Bevy Smith and Jules, and posed the same question. Each took an entire afternoon to get back to me, but I could tell you in an instant why they rock. I met Bevy when I was outside counsel for Vibe Magazine and she was Vibe’s lifestyle maven. Bev has one of the biggest personalities I know, and I love her for that. She has made those 140 Twitter characters work for her like nobody’s business. After some prodding, Bev, who is never at a loss for words, said she rocks because she refuses to rest on her laurels, and faces her fears with every intention of conquering them. Amen to that, Bev. She created Dinner with Bevy by “accident,” and Bevy’s media empire is booming bigger than ever. Last up Jules, who is my newest friend of the bunch, and is my kindred spirit. I met Jules through Bev and we immediately hit it off. Jules is my travel partner and is constantly the wind beneath my wings; reminding me always that I deserve to be happy. Jules said she rocked because she is a great friend and really cares about us. I sent her back to the drawing board because that is evident to all who know her. Jules is a music promotions executive at Sony and finally told me that she rocks because she wanted to work in the business so badly, she moved to New York City and worked for free. Not long after, Jules started her side hustle as an independent street promotion company and is one of the best. In a grimy business dominated by men, that is no easy feat. But Jules did it, and continues to do it well. Then came the hard part; turning the lens on myself! I look back at photos like these of Crystal and me back in ’97, and am proud of my journey from St. Louis. I was a four-eyed semi-nerd who never missed school and sat in the front of every class; I was on the speech team, but sucked at sports. So yep, I was that girl. I always had tons of friends, but never had any direction in life. I was a journalism major who worked at Lehman Brothers after college (a further testament to no direction). I despised banking, then went to law school because I didn’t know what else to do, but thought, “I can do that,” and did it. I rock because I took the California Bar one time while in the middle of a contentious divorce — and passed. I rock because I’ve had my own successful law firm going on 10 years. Lastly, I rock because I am the crossroads of all the successful, God-fearing women I know. I too use adversity as a challenge, I never rest on my laurels, and selflessly give of myself to family and friends. It took some time to come up with my list. Do I have it all together, no, not quite, but guess what? I rock anyway! It is important to remember that just as we rise each morning and give our praises to God, we should praise ourselves for all that we are and have become. No we are not perfect, we are God’s constant work in progress, but that shouldn’t stop us from constantly reminding ourselves why we rock!
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