The Black Girls Rock! program seeks to empower inner city girls and young women.
Amelia Blanquera has lived in the neighborhood for the last five years. Besides writing for The Local, she also writes regularly for the site Soulpancake.com. You can follow her on Twitter @AmeliaBlanquera.
The question posed to the class was, “What do you think is important for young black girls to see in the media?”
“I feel like I should see positive role models. Women and girls being themselves without being demeaning, without shaking their butt,” said Mercy Carpenter, 13.
Mercy and her 16-year-old sister, Emily, are enrolled in the Black Girls Rock! program whose offices are on Lexington Avenue in Clinton Hill. Started by DJ Beverly Bond, Black Girls Rock! uses the arts to empower inner city girls ages 12-17 to achieve greatness. The girls can participate in the Scratch DJ Academy and “I Rhyme Like a Girl” poetry workshop. In addition, they are exposed to different cultures through food in the innovative “Taste the World Program,” wherein the girls visit local restaurants, sample the dishes, and chat with chefs.
Ms. Bond, a working DJ with clients as diverse as Alicia Keys, Derek Jeter, Sarah Jessica Parker and Martha Stewart, started her music career in 2000 by accident. Her mother exposed her to all types of music from Michael Jackson to Sarah Vaughn to Curtis Blow. But it wasn’t until she started going to dance clubs that she found her passion.
“I was tomboy. I had a record collection. I bought some turntables and practiced a lot,” Ms. Bond, a former Wilhemina model, recalls with a laugh.
What started out as a hobby quickly became a vocation. And she rapidly proved to the music community, which wasn’t quite sure what to do with a female DJ at the time, that she was committed to her craft.
Ms. Bond is equally serious about the Black Girls Rock! mission — to provide positive images and role models to inspire the girls who attend the program.
“There are too many messages in the media that are too adult, one-sided, and objectify women,” she said. “I want them to know it’s cool to be smart and creative and to be their own age.” She cites 17-year-old actress Keke Palmer as a good age-appropriate contemporary for the girls.
The Black Girls Rock! community extends outside of the Clinton Hill neighborhood. Since 2006, the organization has hosted an awards show to honor individuals they recognize as Black Girls Making a Difference.
This year the awards show premieres on BET on Sunday, Nov. 7th from 8 to 10 p.m. Honorees include Raven Symone, Missy Elliott, Keke Palmer, Teresa Clarke, Ruby Dee, Major General Marcelite J. Harris and Rev. Dr. Iyanla Vanzant. Nia Long hosted the Oct. 16 event, which included performances from Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Ledisi.
Even with all the celebrity surrounding the event, Ms. Bond is grateful to the Clinton Hill community for embracing the program. In particular, she cites Choice Greene, Joloff, Kush and the Associated Market on Fulton as supporters.
And Ms. Bond acknowledges that it is the girls who are the true inspiration. “I don’t care if they ever become DJs,” she said. “Through teaching them DJ techniques, I can see them become critical thinkers. That makes me feel proud.”
What makes the Black Girls Rock! special for the girls? “It feels like family,” replied Emily Carpenter. “We all help each other. Other programs make us competitive. But here we can be ourselves.”