On International Women's Day, Beverly Bond Breaks New Ground in D.C. with the 1st Black Girls Rock! Fest

(l-r) Beverly Bond, MC Lyte, Jazmine Sullivan and MuMu Fresh
Image: Black Girls Rock!

In case you hadn’t heard, it’s Women’s History Month—and what’s more, this Friday is International Women’s Day, a day that celebrates the rights, accomplishments and strength of women around the world. This year, celebrity DJ, author and Black Girls Rock! founder and CEO Beverly Bond is infusing that worldwide celebration with black girl magic as she partners with the Kennedy Center to launch the inaugural Black Girls Rock! Fest (BGR!Fest) from March 8 through 10 in Washington, D.C.

The three-day music and empowerment festival will feature rising artist Maimouna Youssef (a.k.a. Mumu Fresh), the legendary MC Lyte, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan and more, billing itself as “an immersive live experience designed to celebrate the music and culture of Black women artists, thought leaders, and creatives.”

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Ahead of the musical attractions, the BGR!Fest will kick off with a free-to-the-public Welcome Party on Friday night, featuring Lyte and Bond on the turntables. The weekend will also feature a series of panel discussions, including:

  • Girls Rock Tech, Leveling Up in Tech: Staking a Claim in the Future of Innovation, featuring Dr. Knatokie Ford, Dr. Quincy Brown, Afua Bruce, and Dr. Jamika Burge
  • Black Girl Magic featuring Jazmine Sullivan, Michaela angela Davis, and Eunique Jones Gibson
  • An intimate conversation with Beverly Bond and featured guests from her book Black Girls Rock!: Owning Our Magic. Rocking Our Truth

“It’s a tremendous honor for us to collaborate with Black Girls Rock!,” said Simone Eccleston, Director of Hip Hop Culture and Contemporary Music at the Kennedy Center. “It serves as such an important platform for centering and elevating the stories of Black women and we are thrilled to launch this transformative project and future endeavors with BGR founder and visionary Beverly Bond. This particular program deepens our commitment to celebrating Black women and their contributions and role in shaping American culture.”

Beverly Bond
Photo: photo courtesy of artist
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For Bond, the Black Girls Rock! Festival is the latest jewel to grace the black girl magical crown that is the growing BGR! empire. The event was inspired by the inaugural Rock Like a Girl! concert she produced with the Kennedy Center in 2016 (which will now close the BGR!Fest), and was created as a compliment to the highly anticipated annual Black Girls Rock! awards ceremony, televised on BET. Speaking with The Glow Up, Bond talked about the scope and significance of the BGR!Fest, and why black girl magic matters more than ever.

“You know, International Women’s Day provided the perfect opportunity—the perfect weekend—to do something like this, so I’m really excited,” she told us. “I’m excited about the partnership with the Kennedy Center; I think it’s a great place to be, and a place that really elevates art. And also, for me, to be able to elevate black women artists who don’t always get that same level of support from the [music] industry, so I think this is a really great platform for us to share our voices once again.”

Bond points to Sullivan as an example. The insanely talented but almost criminally underrated vocalist will be in a well-deserved headlining spot for this weekend’s festival.

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“She’s one of the most incredible artists out there, and she needs to have a space to be able to grow into the artist that she is,” Bond noted. “We have created the spaces for our artists; we can’t wait for other people to do it, or other people to endorse us.”

Fed up with industry dictates that artists must be charting or formulaic to be worthy of audiences and listeners, Bond is launching the BGR!Fest as a platform to give voice to the diverse breadth of black women talents and narratives.

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“Our story, our experience, everything that we have to give—we need a space to cultivate it,” she said. “And so, for me, this just made the most sense in the world.”

Jazmine Sullivan
Photo: photo courtesy of artist
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Collaborating with the Kennedy Center also made perfect sense to Bond. The success of Rock Like a Girl!, coupled with the revered institution’s desire to make stronger connections with the black female artist community, made the partnership a natural fit.

“I am thrilled to be launching the BGR!Fest with the prestigious Kennedy Center, a true pillar of artistic excellence, and to expand the Black Girls Rock! brand to the nation’s capital, home to one of the most vibrant communities of color in the country,” Bond said in a statement. “This relationship furthers our mission to build platforms that advance black women’s contributions to the world, and highlight how women of color use art as a tool to drive feminist thought, personal empowerment, and civic engagement.”

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Most important, the festival continues to elevate the Black Girls Rock! family of brands Bond has been evolving from a nonprofit into a multimedia empire since 2006. In addition to editing the 2018 anthology Black Girls Rock!: Owning Our Magic. Rocking Our Truth, in January, Bond debuted the Black Girl Magic! Hour podcast. She’s already planning the second installment of the 2019 BGR!Fest for Newark, NJ in July.

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In recognition of her initiative and influence, the multimedia maven has also garnered three 2019 NAACP Image Award nominations. But despite her wide reach and continued success, Bond remains humble about what she calls “bossing up” with Black Girls Rock!.

“You know, it’s growing, and it’s a wonderful thing to kind of do and witness at the same time,” she laughed. “It’s very cool.”

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The Glow Up tip: Want to attend the first Black Girls Rock! Fest this International Women’s weekend in D.C.? Tickets are available the through Kennedy Center box office at (202) 467-4600, the Kennedy Center website, or through the Black Girls Rock! website.

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About the author

Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.