Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: Black Girls Rock!Fest 2023

The Kennedy Center's BGR!FEST celebrates Black women's creative contributions to the world this weekend.

Estelle -- Photo: Caporillim, Wokicommons
Estelle — Photo: Caporillim, Wokicommons

It almost sounds too good to be true: A Saturday night show — in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, no less — co-headlined by two inspiring powerhouse Black vocalists — one, the most underappreciated soul-fired indie female artist and vocalist of our time, a D.C. native to boot; the other, a British-born, Brooklyn-based artist who is one of the most eclectic and adept soul-fired females in the game. Yet that’s exactly what’s on tap next Saturday, March 11, at 8 p.m., when Alice Smith and Estelle perform at the Black Girls Rock! Concert, part of the fourth Black Girls Rock! Fest, or BGR!FEST. They’ll be joined on stage by Jade Novah, an up-and-coming singer and comedian. (3/11, Concert Hall; $59 to $139)

“BGR!FEST celebrates Black women’s creative contributions to the world and showcases the work of stellar female artists who are masters of their craft,” as Black Girls Rock! CEO and Executive Producer Beverly Bond put it in a statement last year. In a release about this year’s show, Bond says: “BGR!FEST is much more than just a weekend of revelry; it is a powerful and symbolic affirmation that underscores the pivotal role that Black women play in shaping cultural discourse. Through BGR!FEST, we pay homage to extraordinary individuals, magnify their voices, and exalt their creative expressions, ensuring that these women’s legacies continue to inspire and empower generations to come.”

The four-day festival begins with a free concert, dubbed “Rock Like A Girl,” on Thursday, March 9, at 6 p.m. featuring Kayla Ortiz, a rising R&B star, singer-songwriter, and harpist known for sweet and sultry voice. (3/9, Millennium Stage; “Currently Sold Out”) Immediately afterward, starting at 7:30 p.m., comes the Black Girls Bond Opening Party, a celebration in the REACH focused on the launch of Black Girls Bond, a digital media site geared to Black women and covering fashion, beauty, business, tech, and wellness. Bond, also known as a celebrity DJ, will work the turntables at the party also featuring Maimouna Youssef aka Mumu Fresh, D.C.’s own Be’la Dona Band, and DJ Ty Alexander. (3/9, Club at Studio K; $45)

Alice Smith -- Photo:
Alice Smith — Photo:

A full 24-hours later offers After Dark: Who Rocks Next? — a concert spotlighting women music artists and the next generation of rising talent, featuring AAries, Kenya Vaun and DJ Ty Alexander. (3/10, Club at Studio K; $45)

D.C. sisters duo Jakiya Ayanna and Shaina Aisha create music with eclectic harmonies as The Amours, dubbed the “R&B love duo.” They’re the featured act for the second “Rock Like A Girl” concert. (3/11, Millennium; “Currently Sold Out”)

Saturday comes to an end with After Dark: Black Men Rock!, celebrating dynamic Black male music artists, this year featuring hip-hop luminaries dead prez and indie-rock artist Bazaar Royale. (3/11, Club at Studio K; $45)

The 2023 BGR!FEST ends Sunday afternoon with Film Forum: A Soul Sunday Movie Matinee, offering an exclusive pre-screening of Giving Hope: The Ni’Cola Mitchell Story starring Tatyana Ali. Mitchell, a bestselling author and inspirational speaker, shares her experience of sexual violence as a young girl, and the organization she founded dedicated to saving at-risk girls from abuse and exploitation as a response. Along with the screening comes a Q&A session with Mitchell, Ali, and the film’s director Alpha Nicky. (3/12, Justice Forum; Sold Out)

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