Founded by celebrity DJ and Philanthropist, Beverly Bond, Saturday marked the second annual televised taping of "Black Girls Rock," held at the historic Paradise Theater in New York. Hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King, this year's star-studded event celebrated and honored women of color from around the world who stand as inspirational and positive role models. Honorees included Academy Award-nominee Taraji P. Henson, political activist and scholar Angela Davis, gospel singer Shirley Caesar, actress Tatyana Ali, WNBA president Laurel J. Richie, and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights co-founders Imani Walker and Malika Saada Saar.
Award-winning singer-songwriter Erykah Badu kicked off the show, backed by the evening's all-women house band, for an up-tempo rendition of her classic song "Apple Tree." The Dallas native had those in attendance grooving to her smooth, melodic sounds before remixing the track live on a drum machine to play the beat of Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock."
Actress Tichina Arnold introduced one of the night's honorees, Tatyana Ali, who was presented with the Young, Black & Gifted Award. The self-proclaimed "education activist" and Harvard graduate told The Huffington Post, "I was so touched, because when I was little, there wasn't anything like what Beverly Bond and BET is doing, there wasn't anything like 'Black Girls Rock.'"
She added, "To find those positive images that look like you do and maybe share the same experiences and the same struggles, you really have to search. My confidence and my self-esteem when I was younger would have been so changed by something like this. I'm just really happy to be on the other side of that so I can provide for younger girls what I didn’t have. In my [acceptance] speech, I really want to speak to the young girls and women that are listening and hopefully share whatever insight I have with them. So it's an important speech to me. Out of all of the speeches that I have ever given, it's totally the most important."
The meaning behind the name "Black Girls Rock" is significant to the former "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star as something that "speaks to me about just strength and personal power.” She explained, "I think its the same thing that can be felt by women, by men, young people, by old people. Just really taking control of who you are, taking control of the way people see you. That's really powerful."
Perhaps one of the evening's most uplifting moments came from gospel duo Mary Mary, who revisited the timeless Sounds of Blackness hit "Optimistic," before bringing out gospel legend Shirley Caesar.
Other performances included Melanie Fiona, Jill Scott, Estelle, Elle Varner and Mary J. Blige. "Black Girls Rock 2011" airs Sunday, November 6 at 8:00 p.m. (EST) on BET and Centric.