On Friday night (April 1), BET filmed their annual “Black Girls Rock! Awards” at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Hosted by actress Tracee Ellis Ross, the star-packed evening featured special tributes and celebrated honorees including, Rihanna (Rock Star Award), legendary singer Gladys Knight, writer-producer Shonda Rhimes, actress and playwright Danai Gurira, young actress and activist Amanda Stenberg, plus Black Lives Matter founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even made a special appearance to honor and introduce Black Girls Rock! founder Beverly Bond. Speaking to the audience she said, “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. 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.”
As the final honoree of the evening, Rihanna shared her humble feelings on receiving her award. “Thank you so much for celebrating us in a world that doesn’t celebrate us enough,” she said. “The minute you learn to love yourself you will not want to be anybody else. Role model is not the title they like to give me, which is why tonight, it is so important. I know I am inspiring girls to be themselves and that’s 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.
The special evening also brought out many of R&B’s best, including performers Jazmine Sullivan, Monica, Brandy, and Marsha Ambrosius, as well as Kelly Rowland, Ledisi, Erykah Badu, Andra Day, Corrine Bailey Rae, and even Lauryn Hill, who closed the show with a surprise performance.
“Black Girls Rock!” 2016 will air on BET April 5 at 8 PM ET. Check out some of the special moments and photos from the red carpet below!
(Photos by Brian Killian/Getty Images)