April 10, 2013 | Culture and Media, Politics and Leadership

Black Girls Rock!

Beverly Bond, founder of the empowerment group, offers 5 life lessons.

Black Girls Rock!

An idea that began as a t-shirt became a battle cry for women and girls to claim their power. Working as a DJ, Beverly Bond realized that the media, and the music industry especially, were selling the notion that women were nothing more than sex objects, shrews, or June Cleavers. And so began Black Girls Rock! Through her nonprofit, Bond mentors girls of color via art programs, holds summer camps that develop leadership skills, tutors girls in test prep and provides college counselors. She also hosts the annual Black Girl’s Rock! Awards on BET. Here, Bond shares her hard-won advice:

1. A girl who rocks is...
"…a girl who is trying to become her best self. She understands the importance of striving for excellence, integrity and service to others."

2. Listen to the lyrics.
"My career as a DJ made me really start listening to the lyrics of rap and hip-hop music that was popular at the clubs, to the messages targeting young people, the incredible sexism that pervades the industry. It is a boy's club. Young women need to ask, 'Do these lyrics make sense? Are they really empowering?' We have to talk about these messages and realize that they reinforce the objectification of women."

3. You’ve got to give back.
"There is a saying that goes, 'Service is the rent that you pay for your room here on earth.' We are not just here for ourselves."

4. Look in the mirror.
"We received a letter in 2010 from a young woman who saw our first Black Girls Rock! Awards on TV. She said was in tears. She wrote, 'I couldn't believe what I was watching, because I always thought that being a black girl didn’t matter. Everything I knew about being black meant being ugly, being dark. When I saw the award speakers, the performances, I couldn't believe it. I realized those women are me. I rock.'"

5. Do the right thing—even when it feels wrong.
"You can find yourself feeling alone when you stand up for something you believe in. Nobody else may want to stand with you, but you can't worry about that. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and you believe in, people who inspire you. That will make you realize, 'You know what? I am not crazy.'"