If there was, for some reason, any doubt that African-American women can rip it, the Black Girls Rock Awards 2009 sought to decisively quell any naysayers.
The fourth annual award show is the fundraising event for the Black Girls Rock organization founded by celebrity DJ Beverly Bond. Held at the New York Times Center and hosted by actresses Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross, the event honored ladies who have represented in Hip-Hop, Hollywood and beyond.
Despite the title, the show wasn't a bunch of chicks with Afros head-banging. The event lauded the achievements of a diverse set of women and one rockin' black guy, singer Anthony Hamilton, who snagged the “Soul Brother #1” award. White House fellow and AIDS activist Dr. Mehret Mandefro took home the “Community Outreach” award for her international public health work. The leggy Naomi Campbell swished in to accept her “Fashionista” award and insist that women of color be represented “correctly” in fashion.
Motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant accepted her “Shot-Caller” award with a succinct but compelling anecdote about her rise from a pregnant teen subsisting on welfare to a New York Times best-selling author.
Spinderella (of Salt-N-Pepa fame) received the “Jazzy Joyce DJ” award and rising songstress Melanie Fiona hit the stage with an impassioned rendition of her single, “It Kills Me.”
At just 23 years young and armed with an insane list of accomplishments, Raven Symoné scored a “Young, Gifted and Black” award. Yet, she kept it real with a speech centered on her giddiness about turning 24 and staying positive despite the madness of showbiz.
Poet and “Living Legend” honoree Sonia Sanchez delivered one of the night's most memorable moments with an animated speech peppered with slam poetry idioms and a spry energy that belied her 75 years.
The show really got rockin' when hip hop icon Doug E. Fresh engineered an elaborate intro for “Rock Star” honoree Queen Latifah featuring a mix of throwback jams and an impromptu beatboxing session that she dubbed “the best introduction of her career.”
Mary J. Blige received the “Icon” award from Andre Harrell and Catherine Malandrino who spoke about her decade-long friendship with the singer since she supported one of the designer's early shows at Harlem's Apollo Theater. “Who's Got Next?” honoree Janelle Monáe closed the show with a dynamic performance of her song “Sincerely Jane” that drew a standing ovation
Beverly Bond pal DJ Cassidy tapped into the larger importance of the show noting, “I think it's important to recognize people who help people and that's what this is about. A lot of us [DJs] including myself know how to rock a party but don't really know how to turn it into something to change the world -- and she has figured that out.”
"Mawuse Ziegbe is a freelance writer living, working, and looking for trouble in New York City. You can check out her music musings at www.giantstep.net/theresident"