Angela Bassett received her flowers and a series of standing ovations as she was honored with the Icon award at the Black Girls Rock awards. The show was taped on August 25 and aired Sunday on BET.
Created by DJ Beverly Bond, the show celebrates the beauty, excellence and boldness of Black women. Each year the event gives us a moment to stop and recognize the accomplishments and contributions of Black women who often time go unnoticed or overlooked. This was our night, and Angela Bassett delivered a speech that reminded those in attendance and the millions watching exactly why we are here.
As Bassett accepted her Icon award, she focused her remarks on one word — purpose.
“We all have purpose, even if we’re still striving to understand what that is,” she said. “When I decided as a teenager that acting would be my path, whether I recognized it or not, I was walking towards my purpose.”
“As a young actress trying to make my way, survival figured into the equation but not so much that I was ever willing to compromise my integrity.”
Bassett went on to share how during tough times and “moments of uncertainty and doubt,” she reflected on the lessons her mother, Betty Jane and her Aunt Golden taught her. They prepared her for the ebbs and flows that came with the pursuit of her purpose by letting her know “that there will be times when you seem to face insurmountable obstacles but that’s when you dig deep into your soul with confidence and fortitude.”
The more she spoke, the more the New Jersey Performing Arts Center appeared to transform into a church full of melanin rich congregants ready to go out and show the world exactly what Black Girls Rock means.
She went on to share that her purpose on that night was to say “thank you.” She thanked her family for giving her “the opportunity and the space to be a Black girl who rocks.” She also thanked everyone who made the award show possible and then she thanked those who blazed the trails.
“I accept this award in the names of the iconic women who have inhabited me,” she said. She thanked Rosa Parks, Tina Turner, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Katherine Jackson and Voletta Wallace.
It was a beautiful moment that mirrored Regina King’s speech when she used her time to speak the names of all of the Black women who supported and inspired her throughout her journey.
Bassett said that it was important to speak their names, because “when you show gratitude you’re able to remember that you didn’t arrive in this place in your journey by yourself, you had help, you had support, you had guidance.”
With Regina King cheering and clapping in support and agreement at her side, she continued.
“So when you’re told you’re not good enough, you tell them, not only am I good enough, I’m more than enough. When they say send her back home, you tell them, I am home. I am the foundation of what you call home. When they tell you that you’re angry or nasty, you tell them that they’re mistaken. This is me. This is me being resolute and standing firmly in my truth. And when they say you’re not beautiful, you tell them that you are the descendant of royalty and you are a Queen.”
She ended by encouraging those in attendance and watching to find their purpose and to pursue it passionately and loudly. It was a beautiful charge to rise and run.
As Regina King said as she introduced her, Angela Bassett, “you’re our queen mother in Wakanda and in real life.”