Michelle Obama's speech—and more inspiring moments from the Black Girls Rock! Awards
On Saturday, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a ridiculously empowering speech at the 2015 Black Girls Rock! Awards, an annual event that celebrates young women of color doing amazing things in the arts and beyond. The event, which took place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, was the perfect reminder of just how important acknowledging the achievements of young Black women continues to be — and while Obama was not honored during the event, her rousing speech included some essential truths that all girls, especially girls of color, and most importantly young Black girls, can benefit from hearing.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful,” Obama said at the event, to a crowd that included many young Black girls, “I am so proud of you. My husband, your president, is so proud of you. We have so much hope and dreams for you.”
“I know there are voices that you are not good enough,” she continued. “Each of those doubts was like a test that I [could] either shrink away from or rise to meet. And I decided to rise.”
Her speech proved that even powerful women suffer from self-doubt, but that it is always possible to overcome — and we can think of few messages as essential for young women to hear. Obama went on to talk about how important education is for young Black girls (and boys!), and basically just dished out some downright perfect wisdom for the event.
But Obama’s speech wasn’t the only amazing thing that happened during the event, hosted by Black Girls Rock!. For those new to BGR!, it’s “a non-profit youth empowerment and mentoring organization established to promote the arts for young women of color, as well as to encourage dialogue and analysis of the ways women of color are portrayed in the media,” according to BET’s website. BGR! aims to celebrate and provide positive examples of awesome women of color because they continue to be underrepresented across the board in media. We couldn’t think of a more important mission, and a more exciting awards show to honor it.
Below are just a few more of our favorite moments from the event, and tune in to BET this Sunday, April 5 at 7 PM, to watch for yourself!
When the hosts were the most perfect duo of awesome Black women.
Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross are the co-hosting power couple of the Black Girls Rock! Awards. It’s their fourth time returning as hosts, and we couldn’t think of a more deserving and wonderful pair for the honor.
“I am so excited to share the stage again with my good friend, Regina, to recognize incredible Black women,” said Ross in a statement before the show. “I am proud to once again be part of such a wonderful night celebrating the beauty, the talents and accomplishments of Black women — it will be a show to remember!”
When the Smith family proved to be just as awesome as we’ve always dreamed.
It’s no secret that Will and Jada Pinkett make awesome parents. Whether it’s supporting Willow’s decision to cut off her hair, or just letting their kids pursue exactly what they want to do, it’s hard to imagine a more loving and open-minded pair. So, when Will gave a lovely, touching speech before his wife received her Star Award at the event, we were feeling some serious emotions. Smith admitted that when some (very untrue) rumors started that he and his wife would be divorcing, he began to reflect on just how much she meant to him.
“In that brief moment my heart jumped for a second and I started to imagine what my life would have been like without that woman,” he admitted. (Spoiler alert: not nearly as amazing, of course.)
When Pinkett Smith took the stage, she was just as inspiring — and gave some rousing words as to why BGR! continues to be so important, and why Black women, in particular, are so powerful.
“I need you to understand that we are the women who marched from cotton fields into fields of medicine . . . politics . . . entertainment,” she said to an audience that included her daughter, Willow. “We have found a way to march into the White House.”
As if we could ever doubt that this family has it totally figured out, this proved it indisputably.
When Ava DuVernay gave a shout-out to other WOC while accepting her award.
According to the Associated Press, when DuVernay — who became the first Black woman to receive a “Best Picture” Academy Award nomination for her film, Selma — accepted her Shot Caller award at the event, she “name-checked a host of other black filmmakers in her speech.” That DuVernay would use her moment to highlight the work of others is simply wonderful, and the purpose of it was at least twofold: to serve as a reminder of just how many talented Black filmmakers there are, and to remind us that so many of them remain unrecognized. She also beseeched women to “figure out what you need to do to be the heroine of your own story,” and we couldn’t agree more.
When all the musical performances were flawless, and even the First Lady danced along.
The event included some really amazing musical performances, including from honoree Erykah Badu, Fantasia, Sheila E!, Estelle — and more. According to the Associated Press, even the First Lady got into the music (probably because all of those ladies are absurdly talented).
When Cicely Tyson said maybe the most inspiring thing ever.
Upon accepting her legacy award from hosts Ross and King, Tyson proceeded to discuss the “resiliency of black women,” and just how incredible they are.
“The moment anyone tries to demean or degrade you in any way, you have to know how great you are,” Tyson said. “Nobody would bother to beat you down if you were not a threat.”
We could not have said it better.
When this many amazing Black women were all on stage together at the same time.
No words necessary.