Hillary Clinton also made an appearance and told the audience, “my life has been changed by strong black women leaders.”
Pop star Rihanna and TV mogul Shonda Rhimes were among the honorees at this year’s Black Girls Rock! event, where Hillary Clinton made an appearance and told the audience “my life has been changed by strong black women leaders.”
The Friday night event was taped at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The special will air on BET on Tuesday.
The Democratic presidential candidate earned cheers when she called black women “change makers and pathmakers and ground shakers.”
“There are still a lot of barriers holding back African Americans and black women in particular, so a gathering like this filled with so many powerful, strong women is a rebuke to every single one of those barriers,” Clinton said. “All of our kids, no matter what zip code they live in, deserve a good teacher and a good school, a safe community and clean water to drink.”
Clinton spoke before introducing Beverly Bond, who founded Black Girls Rock! in 2006.
Another who earned loud applause was Rihanna, the final honoree of the night.
“Thank you so much for celebrating us in a world that doesn’t celebrate us enough,” she said onstage.
“The minute you learn to love yourself you will not want to be anybody else,” the Grammy-winning singer and fashion trendsetter added. “Role model is not the title they like to give me … (but) I think I can inspire a lot of young women to be themselves and that is half the battle.”
The Barbados-born singer also thanked her mother and grandmother for being strong black women and excellent role models.
“Hopefully one day I’ll be raising my own little black girl who rocks,” she said.
Others did just that: Rhimes, the creator behind TV hits Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, brought her daughter to the event “to sit in a room with you and feel the energy that’s here.”
“Because she and you are the ones who count, the ones who matter,” said Rhimes. “It’s the minute someone starts giving you awards, you are more history than future. But your slates are blank, your paths are clear and your stories are whatever you decide they’re going to be.”
Grammy-winning R&B singer Monica brought her daughter onstage at the end of her performance. Other performers include Brandy, Andra Day, Jazmine Sullivan, Marsha Ambrosius, Corinne Bailey Rae and Imani Uzuri.
Gladys Knight, who performed a medley of her hits as the audience stood up and danced, was also honored.
“It is the best award, the greatest trophy that I’ve ever received,” she said. “More than a Grammy. More than so many other awards that I’ve gotten that I appreciate.”
Other honorees included Black Lives Matter founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi; The Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg, who has received praise for being vocal about cultural appropriation; and Danai Gurira, the Walking Dead actress and playwright behind Broadway’s Eclipse, starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, who also attended Black Girls Rock!
Debbie Allen, Kelly Rowland, Cissy Houston, Erykah Badu, Tatyana Ali and Teyonah Parris also attended.
Tracee Ellis Ross, star of ABC’s Black-ish, hosted the event and kicked it off with a hilarious and impressive dance number, channeling Rihanna, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Chaka Khan, Janet Jackson and her mother, Diana Ross.