I watched BET’s Black Girls Rock! Sunday and was struck by the diversity of women celebrated. Empowering comments made by actresses and role models Ruby Dee and KeKe Palmer, among others, inspired me.
I enjoyed learning about fierce women such as Teresa Clarke, Chairman and CEO of Africa.com, an online portal connecting all 53 countries on the African continent. Clarke was also honored for her work on Wall Street as a managing director at Goldman Sachs, and for co-founding the Student Sponsorship Programme in South Africa (http://www.ssp.org.za).
As a young girl I rocked because the women in my life told me I was special and treated me like a gift to the world. I voiced my dreams with conviction and fought for my dignity because my mother, grandmothers and aunts showed me how. I knew black women rocked in unexpected ways since Shirley Chisholm ran for president long before I could vote and Diahann Carroll had her own groundbreaking TV show, Julia, where she rocked a nurse’s uniform instead of a maid’s.
So do girls growing up with Michelle Obama in the White House and Oprah running her own network need to be told they can rock? Absolutely. Too many mixed messages shape the minds of females today.
I support whatever helps females of color at any age create a vision for their lives and claim their power. I knew Black Girls Rock! would inspire. What was unexpected was finding inspiration on another show, one I saw for the first time during a weekend marathon. Tiny & Toya surprised me with episodes shaped by uplifting themes.
Starring Xscape singer-songwriter and the wife of rapper T.I., Tameka “Tiny” Cottle and rapper Lil Wayne‘s ex-wife Antonia “Toya” Carter, the show defied my prejudged notions. I expected a clone of the Real Housewives of Atlanta where women preen, posture and pretty much act the fool for fleeting fame and fake fortune. I realize such “reality” shows entertain, but Tiny’s reflections about her father’s Alzheimer Disease and Toya’s admiration of the long and loving marriage of Tiny’s parents felt real.
The show has it flaws. I spotted Phaedra, a lawyer who labels herself high-profile but craves low-brow reality stardom as she is also on RHOA, where pregnant, she preens and poses [once with a pickle!] while spouting put-downs. Yes, I watch RHOA and sometimes I’m troubled that I do. Seeing it immediately after the fabulous Black Girls Rock! really made me think about the power of the diverse images we project.
As a girl I raced to the TV to watch Julia. As a woman I watched three very different shows on the same day that feature, to varying degrees, black women of accomplishment. The completely inspirational Black Girls Rock! was broadcast around the world! How far we’ve come. How I wish I could see the uplifting shows black girls and women will watch 50 years from now.