Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira Receives Star Power Award For Portraying A Strong Black Woman (Video)

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A Zimbabwean American, Danai Gurira has become an icon through her work on AMC’s smash television hit The Walking Dead and was celebrated by B.E.T.’s annual Black Girls Rock! special which aired last night (April 5). Playing the dreadloc’d, sword-wielding Michonne on the zombie-focused serial drama, Gurira has certainly helped open up the world of comic books and horror to women of color, but her accomplishments go far beyond T.V. Also a star of the silver screen, a playwright, and accomplished stage performer, Gurira is now the recipient of the Star Power Award, which was bestowed upon her during last night’s telecast. In celebration of the achievement, she was asked to speak about her experiences throughout her life and career which have drawn her to the characters she’s played, and the ones she’s created.

“A character, for me, has to challenge me. Has to be stepping into something that is going to challenge me but also it’s kinda scary,” she says. Last year, Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o starred in Gurira’s play Eclipsed, which takes place in Liberia, Africa and explores the issues of enslavement, sex trafficking, and war. While they may seem wildly different in setting and tone, Gurira shares that there are many similarities between Michonne and Nyong’o’s character in the play. Her experience with learning about the complexities of issues facing Africans was also enriched in 2013, when she starred in Mother of George, a film centering around a Nigerian couple living in the U.S.  As she says, “I realized there was a parallel between [Michonne] in this zombie apocalypse and these women I came across in these war zones.” Naturally, her own personal experiences as a first-generation American and child of African immigrants has given her an acute awareness of how her people are often portrayed in the news and the media, which she says spurred her on to “show the multi-dimentionality of Africans and African women” in her own work. Regardless of the perceptions of others, however, she says the most important advice she can bestow on other women is “not to be led by fear,” and closes her powerful statements by saying “I am a Black girl who rocks.”

Here is Dania’s acceptance speech for her Star Power Award.

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