Angela Bassett is nothing short of an icon. And on Aug. 25, she was given the highest honor at the 2019 Black Girls Rock Awards, which aired on BET Sunday.
The ceremony, created by DJ Beverly Bond, is dedicated to the contributions and excellence of Black women and girls, a group that often goes overlooked and underpraised. Bassett is no exception to that (see: her “What’s Love Got to Do With It” Oscar snub). But the actress received all the glory at the ceremony when actress and longtime friend Regina King, who received the Star Power Award, presented Bassett with the Icon Award.
Bassett accepted the award with an empowering message about how she found her purpose and remained steadfast in fulfilling it, even through adversity. She told the audience at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark that she knew from the time she was a teen that she wanted to be an actress. But even in the toughest times, she refused to take roles or do things that would compromise her integrity.
“My purpose as a Black woman, as an actress, has always been to portray excellence on the screen, to be proud, unapologetic and without regret,” the Golden Globe-winning actress said.
“It hasn’t always been easy, and there have been tough times, days when the phone didn’t ring, even after ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It.’ As well as moments of uncertainty and doubt,” she said. “But what women like my mother, Betty Jane, and my Aunt Golden taught me was 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.”
She received a rousing round of applause before continuing, reminding the crowd that “despite life’s detours, you are destined for greatness.”
Bassett thanked her family for “giving me the opportunity and the space to be a Black girl who rocks.” She also thanked Bond, BET and the Black women who came before her and inspired her, including Rosa Parks, Betty Shabazz, Coretta Scott King and Tina Turner.
Then the Queen Mother of Wakanda really started preaching.
“So when you’re told you’re not good enough, you tell them, not only am I good enough, I’m more than good enough,” she said. “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.”
She ended her speech evoking the words of her hero Sojourner Truth. Bassett reminded the audience about the power of uniting as women and speaking their truths.
“We have much work to do and, together, we are unstoppable,” she said. “Always remember that our voices, the very power that we hold individually, and all of us collectively, it does matter. Now is not the time to be silent. Find your purpose, pursue it relentlessly, passionately and loudly. Be persistent and win.”
Watch her full speech above.