ROUSING SPEECH: First Lady Michelle Obama
FIRST LADY Michelle Obama received a standing ovation when she declared 'black girls rock' at an annual ceremony honouring trailblazing women of colour from all walks of life on Saturday night (March 28).
"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 said. "We have so much hope and dreams for you."
The mother-of-two added: "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.
"There is nothing more important than being serious about your education," the Ivy League-educated Obama said. "That's why I am able to stand here tonight... I want every one of our black girls do to the same, and our black boys."
Obama was not among the honourees at Saturday night's festivities, held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, but she got the night's loudest ovation as she declared "Black girls rock!" — the slogan and name of the organisation 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.
Hollywood star Will Smith gave an emotional tribute to his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who received the Star Power award. Smith alluded to persistent rumors that the couple's marriage was in trouble.
He said when one rumour got out of control, he had a chance for reflection.
"In that brief moment my heart jumped for a second and I started to imagine what my life would have been like without that woman," he said as the couple's daughter, Willow, beamed from the audience.
Accepting the award, Pinkett said: "I need you to understand that we are the women who marched from cotton fields into fields of medicine ... politics ... entertainment," she said. "We have found a way to march into the White House."
Ava DuVernay, whose civil rights film Selma received an Academy Award nomination, making her the first black woman to notch such an achievement, name-checked a host of other black filmmakers in her speech as she accepted her Shot Caller award, and implored women to "figure out what you need to do to be the heroine of your own story."
The show peppered songs from entertainers like Jill Scott, Estelle and others with inspiring stories from the award winners.
One of the members of the group Sister Sledge sang the song "We Are Family," with the refrain "I've got all my sisters with me," as the audience grooved along.
Black Girls Rock! Premieres in the UK on Thursday 9 April at 9pm on Sky 187 / Virgin 184 / Freesat 140.