Black Girls Rock Is Must-See TV for Everyone, Not Just Black Girls

Black Girls RockSo last night was a first in the Harris household — I called Teen Girl out into the living to watch something on BET instead of shooing her away or sitting with remote in hand in case something I deemed inappropriate should crop up.

I’ve got to say, since Debra Lee took over, things have calmed down on that network a lot. I know she still has plenty of critics and I’m certainly not saying that things are perfect, but I really do applaud her efforts to make Black Entertainment Television more than rumpshakin’ videos and reruns of Martin. I mean, dang.

The crown on that movement is Black Girls Rock!, and the show last night is why I herded The Surly One in front of the tube, despite her protests that she had homework (and a Twitter conversation or two, I’m sure). It did my heart good to see a platform for the accomplishments of black women. I wanted her to see herself in them and be inspired. 

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Anytime you get Erykah Badu and Jill Scott on the same lineup, you know it’s going to be about something. Shirley Caesar was adorable. Taraji P. Henson was, as a fellow single mother dream chaser, my homegirl in my head. And Angela Davis was, well, incredible, as you can only imagine that Angela Davis would be. After you’ve dedicated your life to giving voice to the voiceless, it’s all but guaranteed that you will leave people in awe. The whole night was a winner. I can’t even say anything bad about it, and that’s a stretch for me and my sarcastic tail.  

I came from a household where my mother celebrated the beauty of our heritage and the people living it out every day. We had black art in the living room and I played with black dolls when I was a kid. The Jesus in our house was always, always brown, as were the Santas and the angels at the top of our Christmas trees. My mama made it quite clear that black was beautiful and as a result, I never felt less than or inferior to anybody because of my color — black, white, or any other shade in the spectrum.

(Incidentally, that came in handy when she shipped me off to a high school where I was one of seven African-American kids in a student population of 1,600. Thanks for the prep work, Mommy.)

That pride is something I’m passing on to my child. But it’s hard raising a black girl with self-esteem in tact when there are oh so many external factors fighting to knock it out altogether — old school racism and sexism, the misogyny and objectification that’s running almost unchecked in our own community, daddy issues, personal baggage, and just the little hits that a young woman takes on the day-to-day as folks pick her apart because she ain’t this or she doesn’t have enough of that. She’s too light, too dark, too tall, too big, too little, too smart, too dumb, too cute, not cute enough. There’s always somebody waiting with some snide comment or some derogatory sludge to offload into a girl’s self-perception.

We start out looking in the mirror and admiring ourselves, feeling like real-life princesses and then by the time we make it through the gauntlet of adolescence, that image of has taken a real hit. And it’s unfortunate that not all girls have someone at home or in school or in their inner circles who can sow into their lives and tell them, “No baby, you are just as fabulous and just as amazing as you think you are.” That’s why I applaud the work that Black Girls Rock! does.

So I hope at least a few of those little ladies who’ve struggled to feel wonderful, whether it’s because of their skin color or their shape or their intelligence or not being able to afford the cutest, coolest clothes and shoes, got to see the show last night.

I know it sure as heck inspired me, a big ol’ grown girl, to help young ladies feel empowered to put every one of their gifts and talents into full use, starting with the one who slings her clothes and leaves the lights on in my own house. And it encouraged me even more to chase my own star. If I could only be half of an Angela Davis or a Beverly Bond, that half is alright with me. But I’m fully expecting my daughter to be the next act.  

Did you watch Black Girls Rock last night? What were your personal highlights?


Image via allaboutgeorge/Flickr

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