When I first started watching the BET Awards, it was always a major event in my house. My family and friends would eagerly gather around the TV, turn the volume up to its limit, and stare with wide eyes as black excellence traipsed across the screen. It was always a day to look forward to. It was a day when we could embrace ourselves in black culture, and stand confidently in our talent. It was a day we could head bop to the newest hits, but also reminisce over those “old school jams”. It was like some unspoken black holiday, that took place every single summer… and last night proved that tradition is still stronger than ever.
This year’s BET Awards was one for the books, packed with great performances, fashion, and most importantly politics. There were an array of memorable moments, but a few rightfully stuck out from the rest.
Beyonce’ Returns to the Main Stage
Most of us fans know Beyoncé grew up on the BET stage, slaying us all with larger than life performances since her Destiny’s Child days. It’s been a while since the Queen has made an appearance, however this year Beyonce opened the show! Stomping through water and singing a powerful rendition of “Freedom,” the artist showed us that she still values the BET Awards even in the midst of her tour. Adding a cherry on top of this liberating performance was a fired up Kendrick Lamar, who certainly helped start the show off the right way.
In the past, BET has been known to push tributes towards the end of the program, but this year things went differently. Artists performed Prince’s hits throughout the show, to continuously honor the late music legend. We heard the likes of Erykah Badu, Bilal, Tori Kelly, Stevie Wonder, but the three stars that truly captured us all were Janelle Monae, Jennifer Hudson, and Sheila E. These women put it all on the stage, giving the audience and viewers at home literal chills.
Don’t Trump America
Several celebrities decided to use their camera time to remind us how important the upcoming elections are. Without namedropping, we all realized they were pretty much telling us “We can’t let Donald Trump win.” Singer Usher proudly sported his opinions of the candidate, as the back of his jacket read “Don’t Trump America” and started a national hashtag on Twitter.
If you’re like me you are most familiar with Jesse Williams for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy, however this handsome actor is also a humanitarian and activist. Upon receiving the 2016 Humanitarian Award, Jesse Williams delivered one of the most powerful speeches to hit cable television. We all sat in awe as he poetically charged us, and taught us all a big lesson in fighting to eradicate racisim. Here are just a few quotes:
“Now dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies. “
“Freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us, “but she would’ve been alive if she hadn’t acted so… free.” Now freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but you know what though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.”
“We’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold.”
I have to say, the BET Awards just keeps getting better and blacker. Our display of culture seemed to upset outside viewers, as the show was broadcasted live on six different television networks. However, it was a proud night for all of us and was just what we needed in times like this. Bravo BET, we’ll see you next year!