In Celebration of Us: 9 Reasons We Need "Black Girls Rock"

by Ogechi Emechebe At this year's Black Girls Rock event, First Lady Michelle Obama made an appearance and made an important declarati...

by Ogechi Emechebe

At this year's Black Girls Rock event, First Lady Michelle Obama made an appearance and made an important declaration: Black Girls do indeed rock.
“I am so excited to be here at Black Girls Rock! To all the young women here tonight and all across the country, let me say those words again: Black girls rock! We rock!”

Many people don't know that besides an awards show, Black Girls Rock is an organization dedicated to empowering young women of color. The annual awards show sponsored by BET is intended to recognize exceptional role models, as well as to acknowledge the work and talents of black women and girls who are leading by example, but often ignored by mainstream media. While black women celebrated the fact that the current First Lady of the United States—also a Black Girl who rocks—affirmed our existence matters, others (mostly white women) criticized her choice of words, stating it was racist and excluded white girls.

White women who are upset by Mrs. Obama’s words and the event are too blinded by their white privilege to see their anger is misplaced. We’re not here for White Girls Rock because they’re told they rock 365 days a year. Their faces are everywhere. Positive representations of them are everywhere. White women's beauty, uniqueness, talent, contributions, and existence are affirmed everywhere from billboards and advertisements; to television, movies, magazines; to textbooks and history books.

So, no, Michelle Obama and the rest of us aren’t here for them. We’re here for us, because no one else—not even some of our black men—are here for us. Black women face hurdles everyday for simply existing as black and female: racism, sexism, colorism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, and the list goes on.

The work, legacy, beauty, and intellect of black women is often ignored and marginalized. It’s not everyday that we’re uplifted, encouraged, acknowledged, or appreciated by dominant society. For those with bruised egos that are offended by this, allow me to explain why we need Black Girls Rock…

We need Black Girls Rock because after the era of black family sitcoms, it’s uncommon for black girls to see positive representations of themselves on TV. Before hit shows like How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal, which feature powerful black women in leading roles, you’d only find us fighting and acting a fool on reality shows like Love and Hip Hop or Basketball Wives.
We need Black Girls Rock because young black girls can’t act or play baseball without being called a cunt or slut. Even when we excel, our humanity is still attacked.

We need Black Girls Rock because every day black girls see images that erase their existence. A simple Google Search for the covers of popular women’s magazines like Vogue, Marie Claire and Glamour are proof enough.

We need Black Girls Rock because in a society where whiteness and white features are considered the norm and the standard of beauty, black girls are subliminally told they are ugly. When Googling “beautiful women,” this is what you find. When black women are praised for their beauty, it’s usually seen as “exotic” or the exception to the rule. This month, Lupita Nyong'o graces the cover of the May issue of Harper's Bazaar UK, where she is labeled “The New Face of Beauty.” However, Lupita’s face and others similar to it are not “new” and neither is our beauty. These kinds of headlines serve as a harsh reminder of how black women are often ignored in the fashion and beauty industries.

We need Black Girls Rock because black hair is still a political matter. Black women can be fired from their job and black girls can be expelled from school because natural hair is seen as “unprofessional” and “distracting.”

We need Black Girls Rock because anything black girls do, we're told white girls can (supposedly) do it better. Hairstyles, fashion trends, and physical features that are common among black women are criticized on us, but celebrated when white women have them. Big butts are sexualized and deemed disgusting on black women, but along came Iggy Azalea and Kim Kardashian and suddenly it’s praised, so much so that Vogue declared we’re in the era of big booties. Dreadlocks on Kylie Jenner are seen as “edgy,” but when Zendaya rocked them, TV hosts joked that her hair “smelled of patchouli oil and weed.” Kylie Jenner also gets credit for her desirable (and fake) big lips, while most black girls are ridiculed for having the same trait naturally.

We need Black Girls Rock because we only receive Academy Awards when we play subservient and stereotypical roles: slaves, maids, or abusive mothers. It's 2015, and we're just now starting to gain better media representation, but we've had to largely accomplish it our own.

We need Black Girls Rock because light-skinned and biracial women like Halle Berry usually represent the whole, while the rest of us are rendered invisible. Who remembers when not so long ago, Viola Davis was described as being "less classically beautiful" in a New York Times article?

We need Black Girls Rock because black men have no problem degrading and dehumanizing us in rap/hip-hop music. How many songs out there refer to us as bitches, hoes, thots, ratchets, and bust-downs? How many songs out there celebrate the brutal physical and sexual violence enacted against us? How many songs out there say we’re disposable and only good for the sexual gratification of black men? These lyrics send dangerous messages to young black girls and if internalized, can have damaging effects on their self-esteem and worth.

The above points barely scratches the surface of the hurdles black women face everyday. But despite it all, we still overcome and continue to thrive. At this year’s Black Girls Rock show, Jada Pinkett Smith said it best:
I need you to understand that we are the women who marched from cotton fields into fields of medicine, politics, entertainment… We have [even] found a way to march into the White House.
And she’s right. We have come a long way and those achievements deserve recognition. We deserve all the praise and empowerment, because we have defeated the unthinkable to be where we are today. No other group of women in America have been through what black women have, and our persistence to still remain shows we definitely do rock. And those who are upset to see us shine can go kick rocks.

Simply: Black. Women. ROCK!

Photo: BET Networks / Black Girls Rock

Ogechi Emechebe enjoys reading, writing and cooking. Her topics of interest include gender equality, social justice and healthy lifestyles. She describes herself as a gym rat with a slight obsession of eating healthy. Email her at or follow her on Twitter @IgboGirl21.

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