She spins the records that rock the party, but celebrity DJ Beverly Bond will be working the red carpet with rock stars Mary J. Blige, Janelle Monae, Naomi Campbell and many more to be honored at the 4th Annual BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Awards and Fundraiser Saturday, October 17th at the New York Times Center. What started off as an idea for T-shirts has now grown to a mentoring program for young women, and a fabulous red carpet fundraising event that has honored in the past Erykah Badu, Sylvia Rhone, Bethann Hardison, hip hop recording artist and producer Missy Elliot and President of Spelman College, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. This year’s event will be hosted by Actresses Regina King, a long time supporter and Tracee Ellis Ross. Honoring women who’ve excelled in the areas of fashion, media, business, the arts and entertainment, and public service, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! never forgets the brothers. And this year BLACK GIRLS ROCK! honors GRAMMY Award winner Anthony Hamilton with the “Soul Brother #1” Award. Also, Grabbing this year’s “Young, Gifted, and Black” Award is Raven-Symone, and there’s even a “Shot Caller” Award which goes to motivational speaker, author, and television personality Iyanla Vanzant. Bond lays down her headphones and brings the turntable to a stop to chat with me a bit about the awards show and her mentoring program.
Clutch: How did this bright idea, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Originate?
DJ Beverly Bond: It took a vision. I saw it, I knew what I wanted to do, I knew why I wanted to do it, and I made it happen. I think that’s how you go after anything that you really want. I was passionate about the affirmation Black Girls Rock. Originally, it was my T-shirt idea and as soon as I said it, I thought this was way bigger than T-shirts! This is something we as Black women don’t hear; it’s something that we’ve never heard. We don’t really get this message in the media, movies, or in music. I’m not saying it’s never there, I’m saying it’s rarely there. I thought BLACK GIRLS ROCK was a slogan that couldn’t just be my own personal thing. In today’s society and now more than ever, our girls are not given the whole picture, and because of that they are making choices that are not necessarily the best ones for them to be the best people they can be in life.
Clutch: When I first learned of this organization a few years back, I thought this is what I needed when I was younger, not all those modeling and charm schools. And I wish I could join now! (Laughs)
DJ Beverly Bond: Wow! I remember John Casablanca modeling school and agency (laughs.) But, BLACK GIRLS ROCK is not just for the kids; it’s also for the kids! It’s an affirmation for all of us. I think women are incredible beings period, but when you have traditionally been the underdog; the one that has been cast out and shunned, with messages constantly telling you that you are less than everyone else, that’s something that you have to really get through. This is not just the “strong Black woman” syndrome, but there is something very beautiful about being strong. There is also something special about having to navigate your way through everything, still come out on top and be the best at whatever it is that you do. We can’t wait for someone to come clean us up.
“We can’t wait for someone to come clean us up.”
Clutch: Many women appearing in music videos are legitimate models, while others…well you know…really use what they mamas gave them. Have you had girls interested in performing in videos, and if so do you discuss the difference?
DJ Beverly Bond: I was a model before I was a DJ, so I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being in a video, but do you want to be in the after dark videos? It depends on what you do. And even if that is your career path, you probably should have exhausted all other possibilities before you got to that point. I think our girls who want to be dancers want to be expressive and be an artist more than anything. But, you know, some people are very happy doing what they’re doing, and I’m not taking away from that. I’m just saying that when you show a very imbalanced version of who we are, then it gives these girls who are coming up a very limited idea of who they can be. It’s much easier for a girl to find her truth if she has some real role models and some guidance.
Clutch: Have you ever thought to have video vixens come and speak to the young women to provide real life accounts and experiences into this world?
DJ Beverly Bond: No. These girls are not dumb. If someone is in a video and they had champagne poured on their naked body, they can see for themselves that that’s disgusting. I don’t think there‘s anything wrong with video girls, but I do think directors are starting to get strippers! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being in a video; its exposure and a role. I just want to teach the girls to have some integrity, and to be unafraid of saying no.
“I saw it, I knew what I wanted to do, I knew why I wanted to do it, and so I made it happen.”
Clutch: Among this year’s women to be honored are Mary J. Blige, Naomi Campbell, and Dr. Sonia Sanchez. Are they being honored for anything specific or just for being the phenomenal women that they already are?
DJ Beverly Bond: They’re being honored for the overall phenomenal women that they are first and foremost. Poetess Sonia Sanchez is our “Living Legend” this year. Last year this award went to actress Pam Grier, next year it could be Patti Labelle, Chaka Khan or Sheila E. We want to acknowledge all of these women; we don’t want to just go for the commercially branded ones. Certainly, they’re all honored for being incredible women, but mostly in the categories in which we are presenting. For example, to be honored this year is someone you may or may not have heard of. Dr. Mehrat Mandefro is our “Community Service” honoree. She has an organization that deals with AIDS prevention among young women of color. Our “Who’s Got Next” Award will go to urban-alternative singer and songwriter Janelle Monae. She’s someone on the edge that’s about to make it happen. We have one award for men called “Soul Brother #1”, and this year we honor Anthony Hamilton, who defines that in so many ways. We also look for the philosophical angle of the man, and we make sure that he is strong and in the community representing his craft and his culture. Let’s see…Naomi Campbell is winning our “Fashionista Award,” of course, I don’t even have to explain that to you. She’s got her own walk! So, from Beyonce to those you may not have heard of, we honor them! We try to get everybody in, and not just because they have a celebrity name.
Clutch: I love the programs BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. has to offer. I’m particularly interested in the festivities surrounding “The Taste of the World.”
DJ Beverly Bond: The girls learn culture through different culinary experiences which we are starting in January with Macy’s Department Store.
Clutch: Who are some of the behind the scenes people who help to make this fabulous organization happen?
DJ Beverly Bond: When I started BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, it’s funny, I went to a lot of people in the industry, and some people were kind of afraid of the mission because I was saying to them that we have to do something about the lyrics, and the disrespectful images that are dishonoring to our women. But a lot of people that were interested were the people that were interviewing me about my Deejaying life. People who have come from different walks of life thought this was an incredible thing and got involved by volunteering. There have always been women who are super supportive of us like our host Regina King, Actress Kerry Washington and Susan Taylor who was our keynote speaker last year.
Clutch: I bet this is all very exciting for your girls. Do they get involved in the awards ceremony?
DJ Beverly Bonds: Our girls are always there. They will probably present and be a part of the presentation for our “Young, Gifted and Black” honoree which is Entrepreneur and Actress Raven-Symone. I like to get the girls in front of people so that they can see who they are. Regina King made a comment last year saying that these girls are 15 and they look 15! Like, they look how they’re supposed to look, you know, and that was a shock to many.
Clutch: You have to be expanding to other cities!
DJ Beverly Bond: This is part of us having our fundraiser, but it’s also a part of our message. I think it’s important to spread BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. all across the country.
To rock it out by offering a donation, and to keep up with BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. bookmark BlACKGIRLSROCKInc.com.
Also, check out blackgirlsrock.wordpress.com for updates on BGR.