The BET Awards celebrated 20 years of highlighting excellence in Black-led entertainment on Sunday night.
The ceremony, filmed virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, kept much of its focus on topics such as systemic racism and equal rights.
Hosted by Insecure actor Amanda Seales, the virtual awards show as filled with powerful moments and touching tributes.
“I’m your host Amanda Seales. Why am I hosting it? Who better. I’ve been telling y’all everybody racist,” Sealed opened the show. “I saw you up in the comments saying I was doing the most but look at us now.”
She continued: “Everyone is posting black squares. Y’all’s feeds went from OnlyFans to only fists in like 24 hours. Now folks always say: ‘All Amanda ever does is talk about race.’ Well listen, I would love to talk about regular, everyday things, but racism always beats me to it.”
She went on to use an example. “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.”
“Who doesn’t appreciate some shut-eye?” Seales said. “I had a nap in 2015 that was so good, it felt like Black Jesus tucked me in. I still talk about it to this day, but that’s a wrap because I can’t dream about sleeping knowing Breonna Taylor‘s killers have not been arrested.”
She said this awards show was a little different because it was virtual, and “outside has on one. It’s got COVID and cops and Karens gone wild.”
“We deserve a break,” the Insecure actor explained. “When I say ‘we,’ I mean all us Black folks watching the kneeling. The ‘I take responsibility’ vids and saying to ourselves: ‘Wow, y’all goofy.’ Because America is acting brand-new about racism.
“Like, Dr. Martin Luther the King Jr. was doing all them speeches for album interludes,” Seales continued. “Now they’re talking about Juneteenth. It’s dope, but you all don’t let them Cinco de Mayo our day. If we ain’t watchful, every June 19th, folks will be wearing Frederick Douglass wig hats, ordering Harrietinis off the drink special. Then we have the protest we’ve been out marching, and this new eruption of consciousness has been beautiful. But keep it real, though: some of you were on the protest because the club is closed.”
Here are five of the best moments from the virtual BET awards show.
1. Beyoncé’s Humanitarian Award acceptance speech
Beyoncé used her platform Sunday while accepting the BET Humanitarian Award to relay a direct appeal to viewers: go vote.
Beyoncé 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 America.
“Thank you so much for this beautiful honour,” she said following an introduction by former first lady Michelle Obama. “I want to dedicate this award to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there inspiring me, marching and fighting for change.
“Your voices are being heard, and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain,” she said.
The Black Parade singer continued: “Now we have one more thing we need to do to walk in our true power, and that is to vote. I’m encouraging you to continue to take action, continue to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system. We have to continue to do this together, continue to fight for each other and lift each other up.
“There are people banking on us staying at home during local elections and primaries happening in states across the country. We have to vote like our life depends on it because it does.
“Please continue to be the change you want to see,” she said.
Obama highlighted Beyoncé’s commitment to the Black community ahead of her acceptance speech.
“You can see it in everything she does, from her music that gives voice to Black joy and Black pain to her activism that demands justice for Black lives,” Obama said.
2. DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s new music video for Rockstar
The video began with DaBaby on the ground with the knee of a white police officer sitting on his neck. Pictures of Black Lives Matter protests were featured throughout the video.
DaBaby is later surrounded by protesters and rapping in front of a burning police car. Roddy Ricch is also joined by protesters when he joins the song and is performing from the top of a police car.
DaBaby won Best Male Hip-Hop Artist, with Roddy Ricch, his guest rapper on Rockstar, winning Best New Artist and Album of the Year for Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial.
3. Say Their Names
A number of celebrities, including Spike Lee, Sterling K. Brown, Viola Davis, Courtney B. Vance, Misty Copeland, Quincy Jones, Kendrick Lamar, Billy Porter, Idris Elba, Ava DuVernay, Michael B. Jordan and others, spoke the names of victims of police violence as those names were shown on screen.
“Unfortunately, these names represent only a fraction of the Black lives we’ve lost to the over 400-year long pandemic called racism,” Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said. “We can’t allow the cycle of pain and oppression to continue any longer. It ends now. We will not lose.”
4. Wayne Brady honours Little Richard
Wayne Brady honoured the late music legend Little Richard during the virtual awards show with a performance of some of his greatest hits, including Lucy, Good Golly, Miss Molly and Tutti Frutti.
“In 1932, a star was born in Macon, Ga., honey. He would change the world through music. He was known as the originator, the innovator, the architect of rock ‘n’ roll. I’m talking about Little Richard,” Wayne said as he sat at a piano in a gold tuxedo.
Little Richard passed away on May 9 from bone cancer, and his agent confirmed the news in a statement.
“Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville. He was living with his brother in Nashville,” his agent confirmed to People on May 9. “He was battling for a good while, many years. I last spoke to him about two or three weeks ago. I knew he wasn’t well, but he never really got into it, he just would say: ‘I’m not well.’ He’s been suffering for many years with various aches and pains. He just wouldn’t talk about it much.”
The rapper honoured Bryant with a performance of his 2009 song Kobe Bryant, highlighting the NBA icon’s biggest moments. Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January that killed eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Wayne weaved in new lyrics as Bryant’s No. 8 and 24 flashed behind him. His performance showed video clips of the Los Angeles Lakers star dunking on Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, hitting game-winning shots and highlights from his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
“I call him King Bryant,” Wayne rapped. “Now let the crown show.”
5. Megan Thee Stallion’s performance of Girls in the Hood and Savage
Megan Thee Stallion took to the desert in a performance themed after the Mad Max films.
Sporting a feathered crop top, she danced and twerked alongside her dancers, who wore masks and maintained social distance amid the coronavirus pandemic. She performed her hit Savage Remix and Girls in the Hood, a revamp of Easy E’s 1987 song Boyz-n-the-Hood.
In the post-apocalyptic setting, she and her dancers rode through the desert landscape on dusty ATVs. The rapper closed out her performance after jumping on a silver-spike vehicle.
Megan Thee Stallion’s performance came after she won Best Female Hip-Hop Artist.
Take a look at the list of winners at the 2020 BET Awards below.
Video of the Year: DJ Khaled featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, Higher
Best Female R&B/pop Artist: Lizzo
Best Male R&B/pop Artist: Chris Brown
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist: Megan Thee Stallion
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist: DaBaby
Best New Artist: Roddy Ricch
Best Group: Migos
Best Collaboration: Chris Brown featuring Drake, No Guidance
Album of the Year: Roddy Ricch, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial
Humanitarian Award: Beyoncé
Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award: Kirk Franklin, Just for Me
Best Actress: Issa Rae
Best Actor: Michael B. Jordan
Best Movie: Queen & Slim
YoungStars award: Marsai Martin
Sportswoman of the Year: Simone Biles
Sportsman of the Year: LeBron James
BET HER Award: Beyoncé featuring Blue Ivy Carter, Wizkid and Saint JHN, Brown Skin Girl
Video Director of the Year: Teyana Taylor
Best International Act: Burna Boy (Nigeria)
Viewers’ Choice: Megan Thee Stallion ft. Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign, Hot Girl Summer
Best New International Act: Sha Sha (Zimbabwe)
— With files from The Associated Press