The first awards show to be prerecorded in the coronavirus era featured performances calling for an end to racism.
The BET Awards aired on Sunday night was a platform for the voices of Black entertainers who echoed those members of their community protesting on the streets, with powerful messages delivered throughout the night.
Beyonce, accepting the humanitarian award, said: “Your voices are being heard and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain”.
Beyonce was honoured for her philanthropic work and relief efforts during the COVID-19 crisis. She said voting in the upcoming election was the way to end a “racist and unequal system” in the United States.
Seales joked she would rather talk about issues other than race, but “racism always beats me to it”.
Her monologue came after an all-star performance of Public Enemy’s 1989 anthem Fight the Power. The performance featured group members Chuck D and Flavor Flav along with Nas, Black Thought, Rapsody and YG – who added lyrics to the song and name-dropped Taylor.
During the performance, video clips were shown of the national protests over the deaths of unarmed Black people including Floyd, Arbery and Taylor.
The 12-year-old sensation Keedron Bryant also performed in a cappella I Just Wanna Live, a song about being a young Black man that earned him a record deal.
Though the BET Awards are technically about handing out trophies, the awards were an afterthought. During the live telecast, Ricch won album of the year for his debut Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial; Lizzo was named best female R&B/pop artist; and Burna Boy won best international act.
Overall, Chris Brown, Beyonce and Ricch were the night’s big winners, taking home two honours each. Beyonce won the BET HER award for Brown Skin Girl, shared with daughter Blue Ivy Carter as well as Wizkid and Saint Jhn. The song also won Beyonce and Blue Ivy a Soul Train Music Award last year.
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