“I am here today to talk about the queen. You know the one,” said Michelle Obama by way of introduction.
She was, of course, speaking about Beyoncé, who received the Humanitarian Award at the 2020 BET Awards on Sunday night.
The superstar was honored for her work with the BeyGOOD foundation, which most recently provided much-needed coronavirus aid to Houston. Her acceptance speech was short, but poignant.
“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,” began Beyoncé. “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,” she said.
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“I’m encouraging you to continue to take action, continue to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system,” continued the singer. “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.”
“So, please continue to be the change you want to see,” she added before thanking BET for the award.
To top it off, Beyoncé got to witness her daughter, Blue Ivy, win her first BET Award. The 8-year-old received the BET HER Award for the song “Brown Skin Girl,” which is a collaboration with her mom, WizKid & Saint Jhn.
Another poignant moment saw Lil’ Wayne pay tribute to Kobe Bryant. The hip-hop superstar performed his 2009 track “Kobe Bryant” over footage of the late Lakers’ legend breaking down defenders as only he could. Wayne updated the lyrics to include condolences to Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, and their children.
Black Lives Matters was, of course, a focal point of the telecast, even when it wasn’t explicitly named. Alicia Keyes delivered a haunting rendition of her song “Perfect Way To Die,” which tells the story of a young man gunned down on the streets. At the end of the song, the camera pulled out to reveal the names of dozens of Black women slain at the hands of police.
The connection was more overt at the top of the show when Public Enemy joined forces with Nas, Questlove, Black Thought, YG and Rhapsody Team for a searing 2020 update of the P.E. classic “Fight the Power.” Rapping in front of a red, black and green American flag and over footage from the recent protests, the stars updated the song’s lyrics, name checking George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and focusing on the countless people from the Black community we have lost due to racism and police brutality.
DaBaby re-created the killing of George Floyd as he performed his song “Rockstar.” The singer rapped, face down, as a man dressed as a police officer put a knee on his neck. As the song continued, other people appeared onstage in shirts bearing the names of those who lost their lives at the hands of police.
In another segment, Spike Lee, Kendrick Lamar, Billy Porter, Sterling K. Brown, Idris Elba and Ava DuVernay spoke the names of victims of police violence as the names scrolled across the screen.