THIS IS WHY WE ROCK: Awards Edition

On the night of the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Awards, the girls enrolled in our DJ 101 and I Rhyme Like a Girl programs experienced the excitement of viewing the honorees from their seats in the audience in addition to performing on-stage! Talented poet and DJ in-training, 15-year-old Emily Carpenter, breaks it down for us in her own words:


Black Girls Rock Awards; My experience

by Emily Carpenter

Bright lights, beautiful people, and red velvet cupcakes! Those were the first three words that popped into my head as I walked in to the New York Times building. It was absolutely amazing, waiting downstairs for a chance to be ushered upstairs; I have to admit I was nervous. The fact that all these people were here to support us and Beverly’s vision excited me, but that added to my fright. Would they like our performance? Would it inspire them to look into their pockets? It was all unknown. I just had to relax, take a deep breath, and chill with all the other girls.

While waiting downstairs, we were constantly running in and out of the bathroom. Did our hair look right? What was the better side to face the audience with? How should we look at all the cameras when we’re in pictures? Still, no matter how much we talked we wouldn’t know until the show began.

BGR members pose for the camera before their performance

BGR members pose for the camera before their performance

Getting quite restless, we all stood on the stairs and began snapping as many photos as we could, trying to savor every moment. Click, Clack, Click, Clack. Someone was walking towards us; “ Do y’all have your tickets. I’m here to escort you upstairs.” We all looked at each other – this was it. The show we’d all fantasized about, the moment we danced in anticipation for was here right before our faces. We grinned and followed her up the stairs and into the theater.

When in the theater, the lights suddenly got dimmer and a woman in yellow started to dance. While she danced, a song played in the background saying, “Ain’t she beautiful, Ain’t she Black,” in different ways until the message could be read on an entire different spectrum as when the song started out. It was really moving, and we all knew that this was going to be a show that we would remember for the rest of our lives, and we were given the opportunity to partake. It was very exciting!

The range of people honored made me feel honor. Even though there were many big names in the room that night, the common theme of Empowerment connected us all.

Sonia Sanchez’s speech/poem moved me so much! It was amazing to see a petite woman who people might not expect to have much strength have so much force, power, and just the flat ability to rock!

BGR members pose with Sonia Sanchez

BGR members pose with Sonia Sanchez

Everyone’s speeches were inspiring, but suddenly I was tapped on the shoulder and we quietly tip-toed backstage. Everyone in the line was nervous, but I think we knew deep down that we could do it. “ AND that’s why we ROCK…!” Suddenly, we were ushered on stage. This was it. The nervousness began to melt away, and was replaced with a warmth. On this stage was where we belonged.

Emily (in Red) and other BGR! Members perform "Young, Gifted, and Black"

Emily (in Red) and other BGR! Members perform "Young, Gifted, and Black"

The lights were so bright, I could barley see past the first three rows in the audience. But as I kept looking at them, I felt as though our words and our message were important. Looking in the front row as I spoke, I realized that Mary J. Blige was sitting and listening intently in the front row. It took all my strength not to burst in cheers of joy! I would have never thought that someone that I had watched on TV, someone that I listened to on the radio, would be sitting there watching me, watching us. That was definitely one of my most memorable moments.

The rest of the night seemed to speed by, but I was racing right alongside it. From Doug E. Fresh’s DOPE intro, to Queen Latifah’s moving speech, to Janelle Monae’s absolutely PHENOMENAL PERFORMANCE. I was afraid that I missed her after the awards show ended. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to take a picture with her, I got the chance to let her know her presence was appreciated.

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae performs

The night was great, and I would like to thank every soul who attended that night. The energy definitely was right, and I look forward to many more opportunities for us to empower and speak to one another. Thanks.

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About Mbali Z. Ndlovu

I'm a New York City girl rediscovering her roots
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