BET awards celebrate 20 years of Black joy, pain and progress
They may have been virtual, but this year’s awards were arguably the most powerful in history.
The 20th annual Black Entertainment Television Awards on Sunday June 28, was full of iconic political moments. Because of the coronavirus, it was a virtual event, but that didn’t stop artists from bringing their best.
The award show began with 12-year-old gospel singer Keedron Bryant, performing his viral hit, “I Just Wanna Live,” a song so impactful that it was shared by Barack Obama, Janet Jackson and LeBron James.
Comedian Amanda Seales hosted the show and made sure to highlight the importance of the protests going on around the nation. In her opening monologue, she said that people criticize her for only ever talking about race, but offered a rebuttal.
“I would love to talk about regular, everyday things, but racism always beats me to it. For instance, candy: Who don't like candy? But whenever I talk about Skittles, I remember Trayvon Martin. I would love to talk about ice cream, it's a delicious treat. But each time I do, I'm reminded of Botham Jean," said Seales.
DaBaby performed his hit song “Rockstar,” with a pre-recorded music video, featuring a re-enactment of George Floyd’s murder. The rest of the video is DaBaby singing and rapping on top of a police car, surrounded by protesters clashing with police officers.
At the end of the video, a young Black girl comes out carrying a sign that says “more love,’ and you hear words from a viral speech at a Charlotte City Council meeting in 2016 about police brutality.
Zeanna Oliphant was only 9 years old when she stood up at the meeting and said, with tears in her eyes:
“We are Black people, and we shouldn’t have to feel like this. We shouldn't have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to. It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are being killed and we can’t even see them anymore.”
Beyoncé won the Humanitarian Award, presented to her by Michelle Obama, and she was recognized for her many initiatives giving back to those in need.
In her speech, Queen Bey dedicated her award to all her “brothers and sisters” that are out there making their voices heard and fighting for change. She encouraged everyone to continue taking action in the polls and vote like their lives depended on it, because they do.
Alicia Keys performed her song “Perfect Way To Die,” which she originally wrote with Sandra Bland in mind. She wrote it from the perspective of a Black mother who has just lost her child to police violence. The lyrics were both powerful and haunting.
“It rained fire in the city that day, they say a river of blood in the streets, no love in the streets, and then came silence in the city that day, they say just another one gone, and they tell her ‘move on,’ and she’s stuck there singing, baby don’t close your eyes, this could be our final time.”
At the end of her performance, Keys moved away from her piano to show all the names written on the street in chalk of Black people lost to police brutality.
BET not only celebrated 20 years of award giving, but also highlighted Black joy, Black pain and progress being made.