On Sunday, September 20, 2009, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. held its first ever graduation ceremony to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of our 11 participants who successfully completed the DJ 101 program this past year. Their families, friends, and even some of their principals attended! Held at Scratch DJ Academy’s New York headquarters, the 6-week comprehensive music program incorporates technical DJ training and musical production education for girls enrolled in BLACK GIRLS ROCK! programs. Graduates received registered certificates marking their completion of the 6-week course.
Following a welcoming address by BLACK GIRLS ROCK! founder DJ Beverly Bond, Academy Director of Scratch DJ Academy, Will Corbett, described his admiration for Bond’s organization, stating that Jam Master Jay founded the DJ Academy for the same reasons Beverly started BLACK GIRLS ROCK!: to provide arts programs for an underserved community who should have more opportunities to contribute to a culture which they created.
Thembisa Mshaka, Copy Director for BET Networks and author of Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertainment] Business, gave the keynote address to the graduates. Mshaka read excerpts from her newly published book, highlighting that women often have to work harder to showcase their talents but that we should always be up for the challenge. Mshaka ended her address by shouting, “When I say, ‘Black Girls,’ you say, ‘Rock!’” – A perfect call-and-response to close out her call-to-action.
The surprise of the afternoon came when Bond invited Brooklyn Council Member Letitia James to the podium. James had originally said she wouldn’t be able to attend the event because of a prior engagement, but stated that she left early to attend our graduation because something had been “nagging her.” That something dawned on James when she looked around at the event she was attending and didn’t see any young Black girls. Her following words were powerful and inspiring:
“Young Black girls rarely…enter into the psyche of those in power, but you were in the back of my mind today and that’s why I wanted to come here this afternoon…I came here today because I wanted to see some young Black girls break open these doors and break open the ceiling…I wanted to join with each and every one of you [and] I wanted to see all the young Black women that are about to rock this world!”
In a closing address that also looked toward the future Bond stated,
“It is so important that we nurture and develop the creative talents of the next generation, for they will be tomorrow’s leaders and the future curators of our culture. However, it is not enough that we support their artistic endeavors without also teaching them the importance of artistic integrity and high standards. We have to challenge the next generation to not just want to be seen and to not just want to be famous but to have the utmost respect for the artistic endeavors that they wish to pursue and then commit themselves to the intentional pursuit of excellence so that outstanding quality shows in their workmanship and in all that they do.”
And that’s certainly what these graduates are already doing! According to testimonials from parents and principals of the girls enrolled in BLACK GIRLS ROCK! programs, the creative work that we’re doing has enhanced their attitudes about themselves and their futures, built their confidence, enhanced their social skills, given them purpose and drive, and made them more compassionate individuals.
We’re very proud of that and we’re very proud of them!
Check out some more pictures of the ceremony below:
Above photos courtesy of Mbali Ndlovu
Photo courtesy of Kyla Marshell