BET Awards (n): The BET (Black Entertainment Television) Awards show was established in 2001 to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and other minorities in entertainment. Over the years, somehow Robin Thicke, Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea and the likes have made their way into the awards show nominee mix.
Every year, millions of Black people gather around their televisions to watch the “biggest awards show on television,” the BET Awards. And every year (more recently in the awards show’s history), millions of tweeters convene on Black Twitter for annual Black celebrity trash talking, commentary on the show and awards show memes. This year was no different.
Growing up, watching the BET Awards was a household event, something my family marked down on its calendar as a mandatory bonding activity. Over the years, however, this Black household staple has turned into a junk food I may or may not consume on an annual basis. The necessity of being a part of the BET Awards experience seems to have also lost it’s vitalness for A-listers who used to make an annual appearance at the show. I can’t remember the last time Beyonce and Jay-Z were at a BET Awards show. Even Rihanna confessed that the only reason she showed up was to premiere her #BBHMM video. Niki Minaj has received so many BET Awards that she can no longer remember what each individual award is for.
This year, when she received the Viewers’ Choice Award, she started her acceptance speech and mid way through asked, “What was this award for? I’m sorry,”
Needless to say, the BET Awards has lost some of its intrinsic value for Black viewers and celebrities in the past few years, but this year I had to watch. I had to see how the awards show was going to address a mourning community whose hit single, #BlackLivesMatter, has topped the news cycle charts several times this year. Just three weeks prior to the awards show being televised, police bullied Black teens at a pool party, grabbing a Black girl by her hair and slamming her head into the ground. Less than two weeks ago, a white man trying to start a race riot killed nine Black people in their place of worship. And then there are the countless instances of police brutality that have happened throughout the year, leaving several unarmed Black men and women murdered in American streets. So how did the BET Awards fit these current events into the show?
Actor, Michael B. Jordon (famous for his role as Oscar Grant in the movie “Fruitvale Station”) gave a speech, acknowledging the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the men, women and children behind it. A tribute to the nine lives lost in the Charleston, SC church shooting was also part of the BET Awards show.
Not only did the BET Awards make it a point to address current events concerning race relations and injustices in America, but it also acknowledged a recent win for the LGBT community. Jussie Smollett from Fox’s “Empire” show sang his rendition of “You’re so beautiful,” the song his “Empire” character used to come out to the world. This made for the perfect opportunity to shout out the Supreme Court for their recent decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states.
“We live in a nation where freedom is what we represent, yet we are still fighting every day for the basic freedoms of all of our people…Let the Supreme Court ruling be proof of how far we have come. Let the deaths of sisters and brothers be proof of how far we have to go. No one is free until we are all free.” -Jussie Smollett
Smollett wasn’t the only artist singing the court’s praises. At the end of her performance with Tamar Braxton and K. Michelle, Patti Labelle took the time to make her own statement concerning the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage:
“We celebrate the Supreme Court decision that all people can love who they want, and they can even get married.”-Patti Labelle
Whether you were a fan of the performances or agreed with who won which award, it’s fair to say the BET Awards made a huge political statement Sunday night. It showcased to the world that Black people just don’t sing and dance. We are conscious people, constantly fighting to be seen as equals in the eyes of our fellow Americans. So kudos, BET, for being more than an awards show. This year, the BET Awards gave millions of Black Americans a voice they could stand behind that said “this is who we are: bold, beautiful, Black, and resilient.”
In the words of Kendrick Lamar who opened the show with a powerful political performance visual of his song “Alright”:
“When you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga
When my pride was low, lookin’ at the world like, “where do we go, nigga?”
And we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga
I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak and my gun might blow but we gon’ be alright.” -Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
If you missed the BET Awards, don’t fret, it’s custom for it to be on every night for the rest of the summer. Peace.