The Black Lives Matter movement was at the forefront of yesterday’s BET Awards, with speeches and performances reflecting the widespread outrage over the ever-growing list of victims killed at the hands of law enforcement.
Beyoncé receiving the Humanitarian Award was one of the evening’s biggest highlights. It was presented to her by Michelle Obama, who praised the global star for her accomplishments: “To my girl, I just want to say you inspire me. You inspire all of us.”
In her acceptance speech, Bey directly appealed to viewers to vote: “Your voices are being heard and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain. 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 the racist and unequal system.” She added, “We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does.”
Performances were devastatingly real, too. Alicia Keys performed “Perfect Way to Die” (“They came marching in the city that day, they say / Carryin’ signs in the streets / Cryin’ eyes in the streets / But they heard nothing from the city that day, they say / Just another one gone / And the city moved on”). Her set ended with her kneeling on a pavement etched with the names of many killed by systemic racism.
Meanwhile, DaBaby’s set started with him pinned to the ground with a police officer’s knee on his neck, referencing the murder of George Floyd. Anderson .Paak and Jay Rock’s “Lockdown” performance was hooked around the line: “You should’ve been downtown / The people are rising,” and Roddy Ricch, who won Album of the Year, was one of many wearing BLM shirts. An all-star hip-hop team ft. Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Black Thought, YG, Rapsody, and Nas united to perform the 1989 track “Fight the Power,” which included a shout out to Breonna Taylor.
Watch DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s sets below.
Megan Thee Stallion staged a Mad Max video for her “Savage” performance, which sent Twitter into overdrive, as did Usher and Summer Walker’s “Come Thru.” Lil Wayne paid homage to Kobe Bryant; Chloe x Halle employed wild special effects that allowed them to perform side-by-side (below); and Jennifer Hudson introduced the trailer to her upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic with a rendition of “Young, Gifted & Black.”
Elsewhere, 12-year-old Keedron Bryant stated: “I would love to talk about regular everyday things, but racism always beats me to it,” before singing “I Just Wanna Live,” and Insecure‘s Amanda Seales joked about the appropriation of Juneteenth: “It’s dope, but y’all don’t let them Cinco de Mayo our day.”
Watch all the key moments mentioned above, and more, in the video below.