Michelle Obama took the stage, shouting “Black girls rock!” in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday, providing a high point at the annual event of the same name, sponsored in part by the BET television network and designed to highlight positive role models for young women of color, who often find themselves with very few such role models presented in the mass media.
Interestingly, the 2014 Black Girls Rock event took place just four days after a controversy in Hollywood over whether African-Americans and other minority actors are now taking roles away from their white counterparts.
An article by reporter Nelli Andreeva of the entertainment industry news site Deadline was posted on Tuesday under the title, “TV Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings—About Time or Too Much of a Good Thing.” By the weekend, following a widespread outcry, the title had been changed to “Pilots 2015: The Year Of Ethnic Castings.”
The article drew reactions ranging from disbelief to outrage over its apparent thesis that “the pendulum might have swung a bit too far” in the direction of TV shows casting black and other non-white actors, sometimes in parts originally written for white characters.
Shonda Rhimes, the 45-year-old writer for numerous TV hits including Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal — and herself an African-American woman — was gobsmacked by the article’s suggestion that somehow there were now too many parts in Hollywood for non-white actors.
1st Reaction:: HELL NO. Lemme take off my earrings, somebody hold my purse! 2nd Reaction: Article is so ignorant I can’t even be bothered.
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) March 25, 2015
At Saturday night’s Black Girls Rock event, Michelle Obama was actually not one of the black women honored. Those included Gotham star Jada Pinkett-Smith, 81-year-old Roots and Autobiograhy of Miss Jane Pittman actress Cicely Tyson (pictured above with Michelle Obama), and CARE USA CEO Dr. Helene Gayle, among others.
But Michelle Obama stole the show with a rousing keynote address.
“I know there are voices that you are not good enough. Each of those doubts was like a test that I either shrink away from or rise to meet. And I decided to rise.”
“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful,” Obama said. “I am so proud of you. My husband, your president, is so proud of you. We have so much hope and dreams for you.”
In addition to the appearance by Michelle Obama, movie star Will Smith also moved the crowd with an emotional speech in tribute to his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, before she received the Black Girls Rock Star Power award.