TV mogul Shonda Rhimes, The Walking Dead actress and playwright Danai Gurira, and actress Amandla Stenberg were among those who were celebrated at the 2016 Black Girls Rock! awards on Friday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

Shonda Rhimes was the recipient of the Shot Caller Award for making history by dominating ABC’s Thursday nights with Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and the most recent addition to the Shondaland slate, The CatchRhimes attended the event alongside her daughter.

“For those of us up here on the stage, our careers have been named. Our paths have been chosen. We have picked our mountains and we have started to climb it. Because the minute someone starts giving you awards, you are more history than future. Your slates are blank. Your paths are clear and your stories are whatever you decide they’re going to be. You are the builders of the 21st century. You have a right to the universe. You were given then right simply by being born. So you already rock.”- Shonda Rhimes

[bctt tweet=”You are the builders of the 21st century. You have a right to the universe.” username=”HBR_Media”]

Amandla Stenberg was recognized with the Young, Gifted & Black prize.  Stenberg had a successful run in the Hunger Games, and has been a leader in speaking out against police violence on social media while serving as an outspoken advocate throughout the Black Lives Matter Movement.  The Walking Dead actress and playwright behind Broadway’s Eclipse, Danai Gurira, was honored with the Star Power Award.

“I know it can get tough out there. It can get downright ugly. I have walked the path or some version of it but know that you are designed for greatness. You have a resilience that is in your DNA…whether you want it or not. You are what the world is waiting for. Whether the world acknowledges that or not. Step into your uniqueness. Protect it. Nurture it. It is precious. No one can do what you can do or contribute what you are destined and designed to contribute.” – Danai Gurira

Gladys Knight was also honored on Friday evening for the Living Legend Award, and performed a some of her greatest hits.

“It is the best award, the greatest trophy that I’ve ever received.  More than a Grammy. More than so many other awards that I’ve gotten that I appreciate.” – Gladys Knight

Other honorees included Rhinanna who received the Rock Star award, Black Lives Matter founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.

In addition to the honorees, U.S. Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, introduced Black Girls Rock! founder Beverly Bond to the stage.

“There are still a lot of barriers holding back African-Americans and black women in particular, so a gathering like this filled with so many powerful, strong women is a rebuke to every single one of those barriers.  All of our kids, no matter what zip code they live in.  They all deserve a good teacher and a good school, a safe community and clean water to drink.” – Hillary Clinton, U.S. Presidential Candidate

Tracee Ellis Ross hosted the event and celebrity guests included Kelly Rowland, Tatyana Ali, Debbie Allen, Cissy Houston, Erykah Badu, and featured performances by Monica, Brandy, Jazmine Sullivan, Corinne Bailey Rae, Marsha Ambrosius, and Andra Day.

Black Girls Rock! will air on BET on Tuesday at 8P/7C.

Black Girls Rock! acknowledges the achievements of African-American women who have broken barriers in the areas of art, music, philanthropy and community service. This year’s event will tape on Friday, April 1, 2016 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ and will premiere on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 8:00 P.M. ET/PT.

The 2015 Black Girls Rock! awarded Jada Pinkett Smith (Star Power Award), Erykah Badu (Rock Star Award), Ava DuVernay (Shot Caller Award), Cicely Tyson (Living Legend Award), Dr. Helene D. Gayle (Social Humanitarian Award), and Nadia Lopez (Change Agent Award) with a special appearance and speech from First Lady Michelle Obama and memorable performances from Ciara, Estelle, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Sheila E, Lalah Hathaway, Cheryl Lynn, Alicia Myers, and Kathy Sledge who ended the night with a surprise throwback medley.

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