Instead of preaching to the mainstream about the often troubling representation of women in media, former Wilhelmina model, celebrity DJ and founder of BLACK GIRLS ROCK! (BGR), Beverly Bond is focused on creating change. The nonprofit youth empowerment mentoring organization serves inner-city young women through the arts and has birthed the highly successful Black Girls Rock! awards, which returns to BET on Nov. 6. Rolling out recently spoke with Bond about BGR’s successes, challenges and power.
The organization has grown very quickly in terms of visibility but the programmatic aspect is still in development. How are you addressing this challenge?
We have to be able to expand the programs in the way the message has been expanded. People want to start chapters all over but we want to be able to control and fund it in the right way and keep the standard of excellence. So we are now expanding programs and we received over 300 applications for our summer camp.
How do you measure the success of your organization with something as challenging as the development of young women?
We mainly measure it from the girls themselves to the letters we get from all over the world. We got a letter from a 14-year-old girl in Delaware who was suicidal, depressed and abused. She wrote about how we helped change her mind and now she sends us letters, poetry and collages. It’s about how committed each girl is to becoming her best self.
How critical has marketing been to your success through the T-shirts and awards shows?
I saw women get shot down for speaking about women of color. So I marketed in a way not to preach to those putting out negative images but to promote something else. I knew the T-shirt idea would be instrumental and that the slogan had to look cool. I saw the awards show and the mentoring aspect complementing that and as something that would make girls feel better about themselves.
How has leading this organization impacted your personal development?
When I started Black Girls Rock! I would not walk out on any stage and say anything. I’m shy and that comes from moving around a lot and not being comfortable in my own skin. So I’m conquering my own fears. In taking on this role, I learned what we tell the kids: that you can make anything happen.