America is once again in a state of distress, as the vicious cycle of police brutality and protest shootings continues to make us feel angry, frustrated and mentally exhausted. The recent deaths of black men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, as well as the arrest of activist DeRay McKesson, proved that racism is still running rampant. But as the media paints a horrid picture of our black brothers, we must not forget that black women are also suffering.
From the death of Sandra Bland last July to Diamond Reynolds filming the police killing her boyfriend Castile, the perseverance of us women keeps getting tested as we try to hold our community down. At times, it seems like our efforts aren't recognized. But last night's VH1 Hip Hop Honors, the first one since 2010, showed that we weren't alone in the struggle. The evening was dubbed "All Hail The Queens," and paid homage to “the female pioneers, trailblazers and trend-setters” in the industry: Missy Elliott, Salt-N-Pepa, Lil' Kim and Queen Latifah.
Growing up in New York, I had more than my fair share of insecurities. I began putting myself down at 13, the age where my then-uncontrollable depression grew. I hated my big nose, wished my breasts were larger, craved the pin-straight hair of my white classmates and didn't feel confident at all. That problematic mentality continued to follow me throughout my teen years all the way through college, and music (which included these female rappers) became my savior.
I was reminded of my fearful 13-year-old self and how much I've grown as a woman since then, as the Hip Hop Honors not only gave me a brief escape from a society that ostracizes our people but also made me even more proud to be black.
I felt jolts of happiness every time women like Trina, Monica, Eve, Nelly Furtado, Remy Ma and Fantasia dominated the stage, which gave me comfort in knowing that I shouldn't have to apologize for showing off my #BlackGirlMagic. If these ladies can master it, then so can I.
Throughout the years, Missy helped me own my quirkiness thanks to her artistic videos for "Beep Me 911" and "Get Ur Freak On," which pushed boundaries way beyond hip-hop. Queen Latifah showed me that all black women are queens, and shouldn't be treated any less than queens. Lil' Kim's raw sex appeal in songs like Hard Core's "Big Momma Thang" and The Notorious K.I.M.'s "Suck My Dick" made me confident with my own sexuality. And Salt-N-Pepa helped me understand the importance of looking at my body as a temple, thanks to their female empowerment movement.
These themes were revisited last night, with the honorees proudly displaying their tight sisterhood. Missy exclaimed that "Salt-N-Pepa is the reason that I rap" in her acceptance speech, while Queen Latifah stressed that we need to respect ourselves as women. "The king is the sign, but the queen is the symbol," she said.
"I also want to take this moment to honor all the sisters who have been on the front lines in our ongoing movement for justice. I'm talking about Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Shirley Chisholm, I'm talking about the Black Lives Matter founders. And I'm also talking about every day women. Women like Diamond Reynolds, who filmed the police killing [Philando Castile]. Who tried to calmly deescalate the deadly situation and hours later, was at her governor's mansion, demanding justice."
Just when my mental state began slipping in the midst of the ongoing shootings, I found solace in being surrounded by black women whose magic made the room glow. Along with saluting female icons, the VH1 Hip Honors 2016 was also a celebration of my own blackness. Despite the dark cloud of racism hovering our country, I'm glad that there are so many women who have my back.
Click here to find out how you can get involved in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.