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Janelle Monáe’s Empowering Speech Stops the Show at Black Women In Hollywood Gala

(From left) Aja Naomi King, Yara Shahidi, Janelle Monáe and Issa Rae have all made waves for their celebration of Black womanhood. (@eularee/Instagram)

The 10th annual Black Women In Hollywood Awards honored actresses Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi, Janelle Monáe and Aja Naomi King, and featured inspiring speeches on personal growth and the impact of Black women.

The Essence magazine-sponsored ceremony, which was turned into a gala for the first time and hosted by Gabrielle Union, honored Hollywood’s next generation. Monáe capped off a stellar awards season for her movies “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” by taking home the Breakthrough Award from the Essence ceremony. In her speech, the singer-actress implored Black women to always know their worth.

“Black women, the world must continue to know that we are not your expectations,” she said. “We are not your receptacles. We are not your objects but yet subjects to study. It was Black women like [“Hidden Figures” subjects] Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson that took you to space. We did that. We’ve birthed this nation, we helped contribute to some of the greatest, American, extraordinary things that have happened here in this nation. We have been the backbones in communities from the ghetto to Silicon Valley. We are not monolithic. We’re multidimensional and we have a right to have our stories told.”

King, who appeared at the event to accept the Shining Star Award, focused her speech on rising above negativity — including her own.

“I don’t know why I’m so eager to undermine my own talents,” the “How To Get Away With Murder” star said. “I guess because it feels easier to reduce my abilities than to step to the greatness of my purpose. In order for me to survive in this industry and in this world, in order for me to thrive, I have to stop believing that the root of my talent is a tree growing inside of someone else’s yard.”

“Black-ish” star Yara Shahidi, who gloated about her mother’s support on Instagram, accepted the Generation Next award for her outspokenness about social issues, and Debbie Allen was on hand to give “Insecure” creator and star Issa Rae the Vanguard Award.

“She is what I call an OBG — an original Black girl,” Allen, the one-time “Insecure” director said of her longtime friend. “Her success is proof that there is nothing awkward about being focused and doing the work, honey.”

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