(AP) — First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated the beauty, power and tenacity of black women while spreading her own message of education for girls at Black Girls Rock!, an annual event honoring trailblazing women of color from all walks of life.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful,” Obama told the crowd, which included many young black girls.
“I am so proud of you. My husband, your president, is so proud of you,” she added. “We have so much hope and dreams for you.”
Obama was not among the honorees at Saturday night’s festivities, held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. That distinction went to actress Jada Pinkett Smith, singer Erykah Badu, actress Cicely Tyson, “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, educator Nadia Lopez and Dr. Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA, a humanitarian organization.
However, Obama was the most celebrated participant. Wearing a form-fitting white dress, she jammed to performances from the likes of Badu, Fantasia, Sheila E!, Estelle and others and applauded the honorees.
Obama got arguably the night’s loudest ovation as she came on stage and declared “Black girls rock!” — the slogan and name of the organization founded by Beverly Bond. It is designed to uplift young black girls, a group that often has difficulty finding positive and reaffirming images of themselves in the world.
Obama acknowledged as much in her speech to celebrate three young honorees.
“I know there are voices that you are not good enough,” she said, acknowledging that she often lacked self-confidence growing up despite encouraging parents.
“Each of those doubts was like a test,” she said, “that I either shrink away from or rise to meet. And I decided to rise.”
Obama, who recently completed a trip to Japan and Cambodia as part of her worldwide push for better educational opportunities for girls, lauded the young honorees for excelling in their studies.
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody