#StandUp4WnG: Beverly Bond Rocks!
"OWN YOUR MAGIC,
WALK IN YOUR PURPOSE
AND ROCK YOUR TRUTH."
Do not underestimate Beverly Bond. She is a women’s empowerment leader, entrepreneur, mentor, philanthropist, DJ, cultural curator and social innovator. She is also the CEO, Founder, and Creator of “BLACK GIRLS ROCK!” – a multi-faceted movement, award show and non-profit organization.
At just seventeen years old, Beverly Bond moved from her home in Maryland to the concrete jungle where dreams are made of to pursue modeling – and model she did. She worked with one of the most prominent talent management agencies in the world, Wilhemina Models, and was booked by the likes of Diesel Jeans, Guess, Nike and Nordstrom. To many that may have been the ultimate dream, but to Beverly Bond it was a well-paying job, and not necessarily one she enjoyed. She found herself in an industry that viewed beauty through Eurocentric glasses. The concept of “too many black models” was considered a matter of fact and natural hair – like Bond’s radiant fro – was seen as a crown made of thorns rather than gold.
Beverly Bond’s passion was music. She would hang out with DJs and collect records just for fun. It was – and remains – her sustenance and her solace. Her modeling gigs allowed her to afford her first set of turntables in 1999. However, at that time Bond had Hollywood ambitions. She purchased her turntables after she completed a two and half year acting program recommended by her friend Wood Harris, and was ready to move to California. The man you may know as Avon Barksdale cautioned her how isolating LA could be and advised she had a network and a “thing” aside from her main pursuit. For example, Fatima Robinson and Saul Williams would host poetry readings with Wood Harris at their house. Bond decided her “thing” would be to DJ the after party for the readings. That’s why she bought the turntables – to practice. Now, when she would hang out with DJs, she viewed her time in those spaces as an opportunity to learn and study.
After months of preparation, DJ Beverly Bond made her debut in January 2000 as an opener at Spy Bar – also known as the first place to introduce bottle service to New York’s nightlife scene. Her third week as an opener, she spun at a birthday party for DJ Enuff and Angie Martinez. Both DJ Enuff and the Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter came up to the booth and complimented how she played. Her passion was palpable. For her first major gig, she was asked to spin the VIP Room at a D’Angelo show because they wanted a DJ who understood D’Angelo’s music and his influences, and had the skill to mix the two together.
Initially, many people refused to take DJ Beverly Bond seriously because she was a woman and a model. She didn’t get paid – not even cab fare – and had to carry all of her equipment by herself. Sometimes that meant lugging her crates of records up and down five flights of stairs alone. Bond saw the underestimation ultimately as an advantage because people would never see her coming. She knew her music, she committed to her craft, and her investment paid off as she became one of New York’s most sought-after DJs.
Beverly Bond’s relationship to music – and more specifically hiphop – and her success in the music industry are marked by more than passion, investment and achievement. As Ava DuVernay so beautifully expressed in her evaluation of the 2015 Straight Outta Compton biopic, “To be a woman who loves hiphop at times is to be in love with your abuser. Because the music is and was that. And yet the culture is ours.” Beverly Bond has never forgotten this reality. That is why in 2006 she started BLACK GIRLS ROCK!
The original concept for BLACK GIRLS ROCK! was a t-shirt featuring the names of successful black women who rocked at various points in time. As Bond began brainstorming, she quickly ran out of paper. She was overwhelmed by all the incredible women who hadn’t been elevated and whose contributions hadn’t been recognized. It was then she thought, “this affirmation is not just for me. This affirmation is bigger than me. It’s for all of us.” BLACK GIRLS ROCK! would promote positivity, celebrate black excellence, and change the world by empowering Black girls to lead, innovate and serve.
Beverly Bond committed herself entirely to the mission of BLACK GIRLS ROCK! and it changed her life. The inaugural BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Award Show, meant to celebrate Black women who are trailblazers, change makers or dynamos in their respective fields, was held in 2006 at the Brooklyn bookshop Powerhouse Arena. The first two honorees were MC Lyte and DJ Jazzy Joyce. The following year, the awards show moved to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and TV offers were on the table. Simultaneously, she faced pushback from an intensely misogynistic industry. She found herself unable to book DJ gigs and feeling “silently blackballed.” With BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, Bond was fighting a culture and a machine that insulted, objectified and dismissed black women. For many women working in the industry, joining the fight meant putting their livelihood at risk. Bond saw hesitation to support BLACK GIRLS ROCK! as an indication of the power of fear, but her resolve was not weakened.
Today, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! is an unprecedented tour-de-force. After partnering with BET in 2010, the Annual BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Awards reaches a global audience, and is the recipient of two NAACP Image Awards and a Gracie Award. Black Girls Rock!™ Inc. is 501(c)3 non-profit youth empowerment and mentoring organization that builds the self-esteem and self-worth of young women of color by changing their outlook on life, broadening their horizons and providing tools for self-empowerment and efficacy. They sponsor a number of projects including BLACK GIRLS LEAD (BGL), BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Queens Camp, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Think Tank for Research, Advocacy and Social Action, “GIRLS ROCK! Tech” Initiative, and the “Imagine a Future” Documentary. Most recently, in February 2018, Beverly Bond channeled the energy of the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Movement into a collection of essays, affirmations and photography titled Black Girls Rock!: Owning Our Magic and Rocking Our Truth. Fueled by the insights of women of diverse backgrounds, including Michelle Obama, Angela Davis, Shonda Rhimes, Misty Copeland Yara Shahidi, and Mary J. Blige, the book is a celebration of black women’s voices and experiences, and an ode to black girl ambition, self-love, empowerment and healing.
Beverly Bond’s work as a businesswoman, mentor, philanthropist and community leader has earned her a number of prestigious recognitions. For five consecutive years, from 2008 to 2012, she was recognized in Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list of “Most Influential Blacks in America.” She has been recognized alongside Michelle Obama, Oprah, Queen Latifah and Beyoncé in Essence Magazine’s “40 Fierce and Fabulous Women Who Are Changing the World.” She was also featured in Variety Magazine’s Spring 2014 Women of Power issue and Elle UK’s 2015 Feminist Issue.
Ultimately, what makes Beverly Bond extraordinary and her work invaluable is that it is not about accolades; it is about aiming beyond them. It is about breaking boundaries by innovating, leading and serving. It is about embodying, magnifying and celebrating black girl magic in all its forms. It is about providing the tools so black girls around the world can “take their best to the bestest.”
Thank you, Beverly Bond, for your relentless commitment to being your sister’s keeper, and for using hiphop
as a launching pad to change the world.
STAND UP FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS (#StandUp4WnG): Every day in hiphop is a day we celebrate women. The month of March is when we take our daily celebration to the next level. The 2018 HARI’s Women’s History Month Series, will establish a knowledge base, highlight key woman figures in and around hiphop and explore the significance of women in the development of the genre and its sound. The series will also celebrate the centrality of women in continually and creatively shaping and changing the world. Learn more HERE.