The mother of this event is Beverly Bond. Born in New York and raised in Maryland, the Black Girls Rock! founder spent years in front of the camera before taking a more behind-the-scenes role. She modeled in New York and then became a renowned DJ. You could catch her spinning everywhere from nightclubs to celebrity parties to BET’s own “Rap City: The Basement” and “106 & Park.”
Now, she is the executive producer of an awards show, which is named after her organization, Black Girls Rock!. Black Girls Rock!, Inc is a nonprofit, youth empowerment and mentoring organization that introduces music, poetry and theater to women of color.
Bond spoke with The Root DC about the growth of Black Girls Rock! and overcoming skepticism in the DJing industry. Here is our edited Q&A.
What was the inspiration behind Black Girls Rock!?
I started Black Girls Rock!, Inc. in 2006, but we’ve been doing the award show for much longer. I was inspired because to me, the message to women of color was imbalanced; there weren’t enough role models for women to look up to. It was something that I felt was long overdue, for black women, women of all backgrounds, to have something promoting positivity. When you start something, and you really believe in your mission, there is no obstacle too great for you to overcome.
I know this sounds cliché, but if you believe it, you can achieve it. With every dime that I had, I started the mentoring program. I just really worked to make sure that the movement spread. BET has come on board and put their weight and power behind this movement, and thanks to their support it has now gone worldwide.
You used to DJ for BET and now your awards show is broadcast on the network. How did you develop this partnership with BET?
I always knew that BET was where Black Girls Rock! needed to be. Stephen Hill [BET’s President of Music Programming and Specials] was always a supporter of Black Girls Rock! before TV, which was pretty big when it was in Brooklyn. I even asked him if I could put his name on our host committee.
Before we went to TV, people walked away saying, “This is such a powerful movement.” Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King have been supporting us since the beginning, and the community has supported us for such a long time.
I knew the marketing and imaging was important, so I made sure that we’re promoting black excellence, and that we showed results from that. Look at our girls. They are nice on the turntables, and they are A+ students. People meet them and say, “How are they so dope?” There is so much more to us. I’m so proud of the girls we have, and I love engaging in conversations with them. We don’t dismiss anyone, because others have done it too many times.
D.C. native Yasmine Arrington is being honored for the work she has done with her nonprofit organization ScholarCHIPS, which gives scholarships to children of incarcerated parents. How did you hear about Yasmine?
It’s important for us to honor young community advocates. We found Yasmine through the M.A.D. (Making A Difference) Girls contest we did online. We had 10 amazing girls, and I wish we could have had them all but we could only pick three. It’s important to recognize our young leaders and to see young women do these amazing things. That’s what I tell my girls, to use your platform to make a difference. Her whole story is amazing. I’m very thankful we were able to work with her; she’s been such an inspiration.
When you began DJing and producing mixtapes, there was skepticism that a woman could be so nice at both. How did you handle that adversity, and do you still face it today?
It’s funny because I use everything I’ve gone through to mentor other girls. I would always get skepticism as a model who could DJ. Back then, you had to have skills! There was no laptop to help you mix, there was no way to fake it. I came in proving myself. As a female, I was underestimated. Being underestimated can be a blessing in disguise, because it makes your presence that much greater when you succeed. When people are doubting my abilities, it propels me even more.
What advice would you give to ambitious young women on how to reach their goals?
Be thorough. What we do with mentorship, we use the arts as a tool to tap in creativity but also teach them discipline, and the need of [having] high standards. It’s important to tap into your abilities...I try to teach our girls how to find their purpose in life.
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