“Black Girls Rock!” – a social battle cry

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BEVERLY BOND TREATED IUPUI students to a rare one-on-one rap session on campus prior to her speaking engagement.

By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader

There is something wrong in a country in which the president sends out more tweets over a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live than real-life drama of women being raped in the military.

Interpersonal violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment on campus and the workplace, disproportionately impact both women’s earnings and learning. Missed days of work, lateness, poor performance, or dropping out of school all jeopardize one’s education or employment with devastating financial consequences.

There is something wrong when in the politics of abortion and women’s health, an unaffected male vice president cast the decisive vote empowering states to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood – ignoring even the protest of GOP women senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Politics and religion aside, many feel those affected should make the determination as reproductive health is part of women’s whole health and they need access to every component, from vaccines to birth control to abortion.

There is something wrong when a nation can continue with business as usual knowing that in 2016, the typical woman who works full-time earns 79 cents for every dollar that a typical man makes for the same work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Despite factors like industry, occupation level, education, and work experience, at least 41% of the wage gap is due to bias.

Exacerbating the dilemma, the “traditional family” with a male breadwinner is now the exception with 7 in 10 mothers working. The workplace needs to reflect this change in society, especially for women who are the primary caretakers. Childcare that is affordable, accessible and high quality is yet another enormous challenge.

It’s disturbing how comfortable our society is today to simply ignoring or giving minimal attention to the primary obstacles that block the American woman’s path to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We are quick to point to nations that force women to dress a certain way or prohibit female education or turn the other way from sexual abuse. In this country, we conveniently rationalize or minimize injustices heaped on our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, colleagues, nieces, neighbors, friends and strangers who are female.

When it comes to African American women, take these inequities, indiscretions and indignities then multiply them by 10. Just a few weeks ago, bigoted Fox TV commentator Bill O’Reilly disrespected long-time Congresswoman Maxine Waters saying he could not respect her views because of her “James Brown wig.”

Shallow, insincere apology the following day NOT ACCEPTED.

A CAPACITY CROWD of 800 turned out to hear the Black Girls Rock! Founder/CEO speak affirmations for Black women.

Last week, Beverly Bond – founder and CEO of Black Girls Rock – articulated the travails of Black women during her keynote presentation to the Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI) Steward Speakers Series in Indianapolis. Rather than wallow in the mire, her organization – which mentors African American girls throughout the U.S. – chooses to accent the positive.

She emphasizes that it is not what they call you, but rather to what you respond. Nobody can define you for you. Bond’s message of pride and principle resonates with women.

It is as important an affirmation as “Say it loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” was in the 70s and “Black Lives Matter” remains today. Like most inspirations, Beverly Bond’s brainchild was born of her own pain and suffering – recalling a childhood of neglect from her mother and abandonment of her father.

Rather than being handicapped by that experience, she chose to use it for motivation. After a successful stint as a runway model, then a popular New York City deejay, she felt compelled to become more of an activist. “It bothered me more and more to see how Black women were dissed and I knew that was not my truth.”

Black Girls Rock! evolved from being a slogan for t-shirts, to being a local awards ceremony in the community, to being a television show on BET in 2010 and now to becoming an international outreach with plans to carry the message of empowerment for Black females to Africa within the next year.

Fighting discrimination in the U.S. will remain paramount, Bond vows.

“Unless you happen to be of a certain age, you’ve never experienced racism and sexism to the extent we do today,” Bond pointed out. “I feel like I’m in a 60s movie. We have to be careful not to think we arrived when a Black president was elected. The truth is, many whites still don’t care what degrees you have or what position you hold as long as you’re in this skin (black).”

Black Girls Rock! was the perfect culmination of National Women’s History Month in March. But won’t it be glorious when such a celebration can occur in a genuine environment of pervasive equity and inclusion? When that happens, we all rock!

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: vernonawilliams@yahoo.com.

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