I was fed…feasted upon every encouraging word, consumed each morsel of positive energy, ingested every compliment, devoured every warm smile…I was fed until my soul was full…until I was satiated. This is the only way I can describe the atmosphere at the inaugural Black Girls Rock! Fest held this past weekend in Washington, D.C.
A weekend featuring three major events took place at the Kennedy Center as part of their program that illuminates the worldwide contributions of Hip Hop. “Innovation, Exploration and Transformation” from Hip Hop, serves as the foundation to the program that has Q-Tip as its Artistic Director. The welcoming of Black Girls Rock! which celebrates women in such a bold manner, under the umbrella of a musical genre that we adore but hasn’t always loved us in return was moving for me, especially in such a historic venue that only recently gave acknowledgement to Hip Hop.
I initially only had plans to attend the Welcome Party on Friday that featured the legendary MC Lyte and BGR! Founder DJ Beverly Bond on the turntables, but the universe saw fit for me to absorb all the festival had to offer…I went to every event. Now y’all have to understand something – I can’t hang like I used to. My new normal is being asleep no later than 11p (read: 10p in real life). Even as I type this my eyelids are heavy because going out three nights in a row is just not in my wheelhouse. I, however, do not regret any moment of lost sleep.
Friday surprised us with a wintry mix that hung around a little bit longer than previously expected; this made me scrap any plans of leaving the house but a little birdie told me to get dressed because we could not miss this. It was packed, it was hot and they were inching the line along but none of that was evident on the faces of the partygoers. MC Lyte once rapped that she “rocked the party that rocks the body” and nothing has changed. The floor actually pulsed along to the beat. With that as the appetizer to the weekend, I knew I was in for a treat.
Saturday was the Book Talk and I lucked up on 1 of the last two available seats to the sold out event. When I tell you the universe looks out, I mean that. Black Girls Rock! Owning Our Magic. Rocking Our Truth is chock full of beautiful images of black women, sure, but it’s the ingredients of the accomplishments, essays and inspirational insight that will have you coming back again and again. The book is a timeless love letter to the achievements of us. The talk took the focus of the book and turned it into a live blueprint of how to go for yours and create your own legacy. I tried to live tweet as much of it as I possibly could (are you following me on Twitter?) but honestly, there were too many jewels that I had to soak up.
The Leveling Up In Tech panel shared the dismal percentage of women in science and engineering, not for lack of interest but for lack of support and encouragement to continue once they enter their studies. The panel was comprised of four doctors, yes female, yes black. They challenged us to reframe our way of thinking about tech. We utilize technical thinking in everything we do from getting to meetings on time with little time to spare to getting the kids ready in the morning as part of a daily routine. It all translates into computational thinking. It is up to us to get our kids to think about being a creator of technology, not just a user and it starts with something very simple…stop math bashing. When they spoke on this I felt exposed. Math is not my strong suit. However, I do my kids a disservice in letting them see my dislike of it. When you know better, you do better right? Hearing them speak to their experiences and dismantling the myths around the S.T.E.A.M. field was eye opening.
Beverly Bond and Dawn Davis, who is the VP of 37 Ink which published the Black Girls Rock! book, sat down next to talk about thinking about our black girl magic. Bond spoke on when she realized her vision of Black Girls Rock was so much bigger than a t-shirt (yes BGR! started as just an idea for a t-shirt to sell) and how once she realized the magnitude of the idea she was moved to tears and then got to work. She was once told that passion plus mission plus vision allows you to grow into position. We know that black women can make a way out of no way. It’s just ingrained in us. We know it, and we do it because we have seen it historically. We have no other choice but to rise.
The final panel ‘Black Girl Magic’ drove home those points; though our hair represents our creativity and our bodies may not fit societal norms we must know that who we are is good enough. We must create self-esteem bubbles not only around ourselves but also around our babies to help protect them against the barrage of negative imagery they face. We do not want them to shrink but to know that the narrative of invisibility is dead. Jazmine Sullivan reminded us that we are a masterpiece. Eunique Jones encouraged us to change the atmosphere by being the salt and the light. Michaela Angela Davis challenged us to be gully enough to start something. I am moved again just typing this.
Sunday being the final event of course had to show all the way off. I had no plans on attending the concert. As a reminder I was only going to the welcome party. I had reached out to the organizers for press credentials and never heard back. A friend looked into getting tickets for me from one of the performers which also didn’t pan out. When you are SUPPOSED to be somewhere, again, the universe sees fit to make it happen. My mother randomly emails me asking if I wanted to go, saying that a friend of hers was unable to attend so of course I hopped on the invite. I was not prepared for nor did I expect to be sitting in the fourth row from the stage! SHOW…ALL…THE…WAY…OFF…THEN! I was overwhelmed in the best possible way. I love us. We came all the way decked out as if the Kennedy Center was built especially for us. We complimented each other. We embraced as if we were old friends/family and we partied!!! Being in the front rows, I mean you’ve seen it when you watch awards shows, it’s usually a little stuffy. A polite finger snap or head bop to the performances is what you get. The party is usually in the back. Well honey let me tell you. My mom and I PARTIED! A few of our fellow event goers happened to turn around and see that the back rows were up dancing in the aisles and that was all we needed. I jumped up and went right in the aisle by the stage and partied too and encouraged others by saying we look good but we not too cute to dance! Yes I broke out the slang. And we danced and laughed and sang…until the usher told us to take our seats again LOL . It was all in great fun. The performers were outstanding, they brought little black girls from the audience on stage to rock for the crowd and the crowd let them know that they belonged on stage, they deserved to be acknowledged, that they did indeed rock!
I am still relishing every moment of my weekend at BGR! Fest. I wish that more of my friends and family would have been able to experience it in person and so I encourage you to keep your eyes open for the next one because D.C. was just the first part of the expansion. BGR! Fest is headed to more cities, Black Girls Rock! is working on a program for young men and the brand is continuing to do amazing things for us. I, for one, am excited and will support 100% and I hope you feel moved to do the same.