Courtesy of BET Digital Design
Just like Issa Rae said, we're rooting for everybody Black and each day, we aim to provide our audience with a healthy dose of our culture.
When the rest of the world seems intent on sending us down a hole full of Karens, fans of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani and the folks who want to pretend the enslavement of Black people never happened, our culture becomes our sanctuary, our safe space. It’s what keeps us whole during soul-crushing workdays and in between Zoom meetings that could’ve been emails.
Fortunately, BET.com was there to capture many of the moments that made this year so special. Here are 50 news items that simply took our breath away, made us smile, made us angry, and a few that even made us drop a few tears.
1. Rapper Gangsta Boo Dies
Unfortunately, the year kicked off with the death of Three-6 Mafia legend Gangsta Boo. Having started her rap career at age 14, the Memphis native, born Lola Mitchell, had just returned to the rap scene after a long hiatus on “FTCU” with Latto and GloRilla. Her posthumous album, her first since 2003, is still on the way. She was 43 years old.
2. “The 1619 Project” Gets a Hulu Doc
Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “The 1619 Project” is a 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine project that focuses on slavery and the creation of our country via Black blood. Hulu turned the project into a six-part documentary executive produced by Oprah Winfrey. The doc dropped at a time of collective outrage over the likes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis whitewashing education in public schools.
3. Leslie Jones Hits “The Daily Show” Host Chair
The inimitable Leslie Jones was the first to take over the desk at Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” after host Trevor Noah left the spot in December 2022. Jones went on a three-episode run that, expectedly, had us in stitches. She came back to the spot in November, with a deliciously profanity-laced run. Only Miss Jones!
4. Doja Cat Does Paris Fashion Week
Doja Cat captured headlines throughout 2023 for her divisive fashion choices as well as “Scarlet,” an impressive September album. that impressed many. Her first major headline of the year was her Paris Fashion week look – 30,000 Swarovski crystals applied on her body in a process that took almost five hours. It just looks uncomfortable, but it got the people talking!
5. Two Black Quarterbacks in Super Bowl LVII
February was all about Super Bowl Blackness! Jalen Hurts represented the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII, while MVP represented the Kansas City Chiefs. While the Chiefs came out victorious, the game was noteworthy as the first in Super Bowl history that saw two Black quarterbacks go against each other.
6. Rihanna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a comeback hit quite like Rih-Rih’s at the Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show. She put on her own show – no guest artists – and blew minds with a medley of her songs. Of course, the show will also go down as likely the most famous pregnancy reveal ever. No wonder she broke Guinness World Record for halftime show viewership!
7. Al Sharpton's Documentary "Loudmouth" Premieres on BET
Rev. Al Sharpton’s reputation as a civil rights pioneer precedes him. So, it was fitting that “Loudmouth,” a documentary of his life, premiered during Black History Month. Sharpton’s accomplishments and experiences could never be held by just one documentary, but John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. did a great job of taking us through Sharpton’s James Brown-permed life.
8. Keke Palmer Becomes a Mom
Our favorite spelling bee champion had her first (of many) 2023 headlines when she welcomed her first child – Leodis Andrellton Jackson – with then-boyfriend Darius Jackson. "Born during Black History Month, with a name to match!” she posted in the Instagram announcement.
9. “Creed III” Has Best-Ever Opening for a Sports Film
Michael B. Jordan and company achieved the cinematic hat trick with “Creed III,” which not only managed to be thoroughly enjoyable in a way that the third entry in many trilogies simply isn’t, but also made history with a $58.6 million opening weekend; the highest ever for a sports film. Certainly, the box office was helped by Jonathan Majors’ rippling abs. More on him shortly…
10. Nick Cannon Tricks Us All
Admit it: he had you for a second. Nick Cannon has been unapologetic in his desire to repopulate a small U.S. state with his offspring. So, when he announced an “upcoming” reality show titled “Who’s Having My Baby?” with Kevin Hart, amusement and outrage trickled out in equal measure. Of course, he was only kidding. But you don’t gotta lie, Craig…he fooled you.
11. Chris Rock Drops “Selective Outrage”
Early 2022 saw us captivated by the Oscars Slap Heard ‘Round the World. But it’s victim, Chris Rock, was mostly quiet about it for a year before his much-anticipated live Netflix special “Selective Outrage.” Rock did not disappoint in his efforts to get us talking about it all over again. Many expected that Rock would formally address the attack in a standup special – and boy, did he address it!
12. Gina Prince-Bythewood Snubbed for “The Woman King” Oscar
The “Love and Basketball” director had a few things to say about the fact that “The Woman King,” her Viola Davis-helmed period action-drama was snubbed at the Academy Awards. "I'll never get over it, because what happened was egregious and...it speaks to such a bigger issue in our industry," Prince-Bythewood told PEOPLE. It’s as if #OscarsSoWhite plans to hang around forever.
13. Jonathan Majors Accused
In what’s one of the wildest falls from grace we’ve seen in Hollywood, Jonathan Majors went from the beloved future of Black Hollywood–with two No. 1 Box Office hits in the theater at the same time–to damaged goods when he was arrested on charges of domestic abuse. With the trial from that incident making headlines almost daily in the last few weeks, the "Majors roller coaster" doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
14. Harry Belafonte Dies
Harry Belafonte was an activist who became an artist, and led the most robust life before passing away April 25 of congestive heart failure at 96. Belafonte used his baritone singing voice and leading-man good looks to bring attention to social justice issues of his time–namely the Civil Rights movement. Check out his story, “Harry Belafonte: In His Own Words” on BET+.
15. Angel Reese Wins the 2023 NCAA Championship
The “Bayou Barbie” lead the Louisiana State University Tigers to its first-ever women’s basketball national title. However, because everyone wants to come for Black women, she did so mired in brief controversy regarding a good-natured competitive gesture she made toward (white) competitor . It was much ado about nothing and didn’t keep Reese from having the best year ever.
16. Rapper Lil’ Durk Launches a Scholarship
One of the signature faces of the Chicago Drill rap genre, Lil’ Durk lived the gangbanging lifestyle he rapped about for years. On the flip side, he also wanted to provide the city’s young people with opportunities he never had and so established The Durk Banks Endowment Fund, which provides standout Chicago students with scholarships to attend Washington D.C. HBCU Howard University. Durk explained his reasoning saying, “I feel it’s my responsibility to reach back to the kids — especially those that are growing up in my community."
17. Olympian Simone Biles Gets Married
Our favorite record-shattering, gold medal-collecting gymnast said “I do” to Green Bay Packers safety Jonathan Owens. The couple went public with their relationship in early 2020 and have been relationship (and fitness) goals ever since.
18. Tina Turner Dies
The legendary Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll left us at age 83. Sadly, she was introduced to a younger generation by way of her fraught relationship with ex-husband Ike Turner, which was documented in her autobiography “I, Tina” and the Angela Bassett film “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” But Turner should be known for how she reinvented herself from a soul singer to a chart-topping rock icon after the age of 40. A shining example of being simply the best.
19. “Freaknik” Doc Scares Black Folks Over 45
For the young’uns in the back, Freaknik was an annual spring break festival held in Atlanta in the 1980s and 1990s. It became infamous for all the suggestive — and illegal — behavior that was allowed to rock before everyone had smartphone cameras. Hulu announced the upcoming documentary, “Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told,” and all your aunties freaked out at the possibility that they’d be seen in “suggestive” positions in decades-old footage. Months later and we still don’t even have a release date for the doc!
20. Halle Bailey Has Her “Little Mermaid” Moment
Both halves of the sister group Chloe x Halle had a headline-making 2023. But Halle Bailey in particular was ubiquitous last spring as the title character in the live-action remake of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Racist haters notwithstanding, young Black girls everywhere got to see themselves in an iconic Disney character.
21. Good news About Jamie Foxx
Following a medical complication in early March that took him away from the spotlight (and freaked us all out), we finally got news that Jamie Foxx It would be a couple months still before we saw his face in public and on social media, but his daughter Corinne’s insistence that he was getting better made us breathe a collective sigh of relief.
22. BET Awards Pays Tribute to Busta Rhymes
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, so BET saw it fit to pay tribute to one of the genre’s greatest, elder statesmen. Busta Rhymes who received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 BET Awards. He gave us an emotional acceptance speech before blessing us with a medley of his greatest hits. Salute, Bussa Bus!
23. Death Row Crowned as the Greatest Rap Crew of All Time
BET Digital Design | Getty Images
BET.com honored the 50th anniversary of hip hop by linking up with Ambrosia for Heads to determine the Greatest Rap Crew of All Time. The multi-week tournament pitted dozens of hip hop groups consisting of hundreds of rappers across the country. The big winner….? Death Row, or the house that Dr. Dre built. Looks like we all loved “The Chronic” and “Doggystyle!”
24. Tyler James Williams Gives the Best Response Ever
It’s nearly impossible to dislike Tyler James Williams, star of beloved sitcoms “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Abbott Elementary,” That likability factor ratcheted up a few notches when he addressed long-gestating rumors of his sexuality by acknowledging how dangerous (and ridiculous) such discussions can be. Williams’ younger brother Tyrel said that his brother's handling of his coming out is the stuff of case studies. Brothas, take note!
25. “The Blackening” Pokes Fun at Black Horror Tropes
Everyone knows the Black person dies at the beginning of the scary movie, but what are the other Black horror film tropes? Exploring that question was the theme of Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins’ “The Blackening,” a horror film spoof and one of the funniest flicks of the year. If you have that friend who refuses to watch horror films because they’re easily scared, let them know to make an exception for “The Blackening” because they’ll be laughing instead of cowering!
26. Carlee Russell Fakes Abduction
Photo courtesy of the Hoover Police Department
It was the Jussie Smollett-esque mess none of us knew we needed until it happened. Carlethia “Carlee” Russell made national headlines when she was allegedly abducted after (allegedly) discovering a small child walking on the side of the (alleged) highway. Collective concern over a missing Black woman hit a fever pitch and her parents gave odd interviews to the press, only for us to learn that Russell cooked the whole thing up. Russell’s sentence fines and potential jail time likely can’t compare to the shame of not being able to go outside for a while.
27. Keke Palmer and Usher Get Sexy in Vegas
Keke Palmer was just having a good Black-ass time at Usher’s “My Way” residency in Las Vegas when she became the epicenter of a Black Twitter (now X) firestorm because her then-boyfriend made the brilliant decision to criticize her outfit on social media. Seems there were also some hurt feelings that Usher was serenading Palmer in the audience in front of other humans. Thanks to Palmer for the reminder that mamas can have some fun, too.
28. Naomi Osaka Becomes a Mom
Tennis-great-in-the-making Naomi Osaka surprised everyone when she announced that she was expecting a child with rapper Cordae in January. Their daughter Shai arrived happy and healthy on July 10. It was a welcome dash of public joy for Osaka, who has been transparent about her mental health challenges playing professional sports and faced ridiculous backlash for putting her health ahead of her career.
29. Tracy Chapman Makes Country Music History
Those of us of a certain age remember when Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” was an ubiquitous earworm. A remake by country star Luke Combs brought the late 1980s single back to the forefront 35-years after it first debuted and made Chapman the first Black woman to write a No. 1 country song. She also became the first Black woman to win Song of the Year at the Country Music Awards in November. Is there any genre or sport we don’t dominate??
30. Drake Drops a Book of Poetry
The most popular “Degrassi” alum of all time released a…wait, a book of poetry ?? “TITLES RUIN EVERYTHING A STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS BY KENZA SAMIR & AUBREY GRAHAM” dropped when Drake was on his It’s All A Blur tour. Everyone was waiting for his eighth solo album “For All The Dogs” to drop at the time, but that wouldn’t come for another three months. First there was Maya Angelou, then there was Wheelchair Jimmy! Go figure.
31. Ron Cephas Jones Dies
Ron Cephas Jones was one of those journeyman actors who popped up various films and shows throughout his career (which started in his late 30s…it’s never too late!) But his turn as Randall’s biological dad William in the hit NBC series, “This is Us” put Jones in our hearts. In fact, his death scene in Season 1 of the show might’ve caused this writer to shed some rare tears. Jones died from pulmonary issues at 66 and is survived by his daughter actress Jasmine Cephas Jones, who posted on IG, "I keep looking at my phone wanting to call you and wanting to hear your voice. You listened… you REALLY listened to me."
32. Tiger Woods Newest Member of PGA Tour Board
Woods has had a tough go of things lately, but the respect he demands in the world of golf is nonpareil. He joined the PGA Tour board during a period in which he and other players demanded transparency from the association’s merger with Saudi Arabia company LIV Golf.
33. Lizzo Sued for Sexual Harassment
In an issue that remains unresolved at press time, several of Lizzo’s former backup dancers sued her, alleging that she fostered a “sexually charged and uncomfortable” work environment. Her response was on the defense, but post-#MeToo is not a time for any celebrity to receive complaints about sexual anything. It’s probably the reason why the usually boisterous singer was relatively quiet for the second half of 2023.
34. Wayne Brady Identifies as Pansexual
Even in 2023, Black folks still struggle with embracing the spectrum of sexuality. So, it was great to see Wayne Brady reveal that he openly identifies as a pansexual, or someone who is attracted to others regardless of sex or gender. He quipped, “Bisexual – with an open mind!” Brady, who has a daughter with his ex-wife, said he was inspired to live his authentic life after Robin Williams’ 2014 suicide. Brady proves that it’s never too late to discover oneself!
35. Usher to Headline Super Bowl Halftime Show
It might’ve been the highest-profile announcement of a Super Bowl Halftime Show performer ever. On the heels of his ultra-successful (and also high-profile) “My Way” Las Vegas residency, which wrapped in early December, Urrsher will step into the biggest show on television in early 2024.
36. Coco Gauff Wins U.S. Open
Coco Gauff gave us glimpses of her inspiration Serena Williams when she won her first U.S. Open at just 19 years old. Elegantly addressing the haters, Gauff said "Honestly, thank you to the people who didn't believe in me. A month ago, I won a 500 title, and people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a 1000 title, and people were saying that was the biggest it was gonna get.” Her win even netted her some love from our First Family, the Obamas.
37. Quinta Brunson Wins Emmy
After years of making us laugh on social media and as a cast member of “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” Quinta Brunson struck gold with “Abbott Elementary,” ABC's hilarious send-up of urban education. After three Emmy nominations and no wins in 2022, she took home the statue for "Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series" in 2023. We’re looking forward to Season 3 this February!
38. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion Drop “Bongos”
You had to be buried under Mt. Gibraltar to avoid the Cardi B/Megan Thee Stallion collaboration “WAP,” perhaps one of the only small joys of 2020. The internet braced for their follow-up “Bongos,” which was (slightly) more radio friendly than “WAP” but had an accompanying video that was every bit as delightfully grandiose and sultry as we’ve come to expect from the duo. When the commentary about your song makes headlines, you’re probably on to great things. One thing’s for sure: When those two get together, we’re all tuning in.
39. Richard Roundtree Dies
There might not be a “Bad Boys” or “New York Undercover” without the 1970s cool breeze of “Shaft,” personified by the talented Richard Roundtree. To be influenced by the Blaxploitation era of films is to respect Roundtree’s contribution to the subculture. He kept working in Hollywood later in life, even reprising his most famous role for the 2021 film “Shaft.” He died at 81 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.
40. Fat Joe Hosts the BET Hip Hop Awards
Bronx legend Fat Joe was in front as the host of the BET Hip Hop Awards this month, but this time he was also executive producer of the show and helped put together a special 50th anniversary of hip hop celebration. Joe sat down with BET Talks ahead of the show to discuss the beginnings of his illustrious career and how encountering legends like Melly Mel and DJ Red Alert while growing up in the boogie down sparked a 30-years plus (and still trucking) career.
41. Hit-Boy Reveals Two of His Biggest Inspirations
Hit-Boy’s profile has been on fire the past few years, thanks to a six-album run with the god emcee Nas. But the California native has been highly prolific, producing music for at least a couple of your favorite artists. (He’s the man behind the “Ni---s in Paris” beat). For BET.com's series, Art of the Come Up, we dug into Hit and how he continues to be influenced by his father Big Hit and his young son C3.
42. Jada Pinkett Smith Reveals Separation In New Memoir
We’ve never seen a press run for a memoir quite like the one arranged for Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Worthy.” She had everyone talking about some of the juiciest nuggets from the memoir, namely her “complicated” relationship with husband Will Smith before the book itself even dropped. And who could forget all those tidbits dropped about Tupac. No surprise that “Worthy” made the New York Times Bestseller list.
43. Keith Lee Brings Atlanta's Restaurant Scene to its Knees
Keith Lee has been one of the most popular food influencers on TikTok for a while. But he hit mainstream attention when he visited Atlanta and delivered otherwise innocuous criticisms about a food scene that everyone who knew anything about it understood anyway. What came next, which included death threats, might make for a decent Netflix documentary. Lee seemingly came out on top, adding to his already massive following. We do sit and wonder if it's all really worth it?
44. Sha’Carri Richardson Has an Amazing Year
Don’t call it a comeback! Sha'Carri Richardson had a challenging 2021 after capturing everyone’s attention on and off the track. She dipped for a bit but returned with a vengeance in 2023, when she won her first international title in the 100-meter run at the World Athletics Championship in Budapest, becoming the official fastest woman in the world. She also nabbed her first USA Track and Field Athlete of the Year award this month. "I would say 'never give up.' Never allow media, never allow outsiders, never allow anything but yourself and your faith define who you are," she said after the Budapest win.
45. Cherelle Parker Becomes the First Woman Mayor of Philadelphia
Philly made history in 2023 when they elected Cherelle Parker as the city’s first woman (and first Black woman) mayor. The former Philly city councilwoman defeated Republican David Oh by a landslide. "We're gonna make sure that we put people on the path to self-sufficiency,", said Parker, who was born to a teenage mother and raised by her grandparents, during her victory speech. "You've heard me talk about making our public health and safety our No. 1 priority. Listen, I don't apologize about that. We are going to use every legal tool that is in the tool book to make this city safe."
46. New Edition Announces Las Vegas Residency
Usher’s done with the “My Way” residency, so someone needs to pick up the R&B torch. Enter: Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph and Johnny. “New Edition: Las Vegas” will kick off Feb. 28 at the Encore Theater in Wynn Las Vegas. The announcement follows the group’s fall tour and a performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction. No word yet if they’ll don the newsboy caps and skinny jeans from the “Candy Girl” video.
47. Uzo Aduba Is a Mom
We fell in love with Uzo Aduba when she played Crazy Eyes in the Neflix series, "Orange Is the New Black."Even though her breakout role put her on the Hollywood map, it's her new role that's going to bring her so much more joy. After celebrating their first year of wedded bliss, Aduba and her husband Robert Sweeting. announced the birth of Adaiba Lee Nonyem, their first child, with the caption, “Motherhood. I’ve joined the club. I hear the dues are high, but the membership is completely worth it.”
48. “RENAISSANCE: A Film by Beyoncé” Sets Box Office Records
Even non-Beyoncé fans experienced a bit of FOMO looking at all the social media video clips and photos from the vaunted RENAISSANCE Tour. It's those loyal fans (and probably those who missed out) who contributed to the concert film’s amazing $21 million opening weekend. It’s the first time in two decades that any film cracked over $20 million the first weekend of December (Tom Cruise’s “The Last Samurai” is the last to do so in 2003.) There's no better example of doing it for the culture.
49. The Biden Administration Makes a Big Announcement for HBCUs
The U.S. Department of Education will award $93 million in grants to support research and development at 20 HBCUS, HSIs (Hispanic-Serving Institutions) and TCCUs (Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities). The hope is that the funds will create a larger research infrastructure for each school. Chalk this up to something that likely would not happen if Donald Trump was in office...again.
50. “The Color Purple” Has a Star-Studded Premiere
All early signs point to the second film adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel as being a masterpiece. Ahead of its Christmas Day release, the stars stepped out with their own masterpieces on the Dec. 6 red carpet premiere. From Oprah Winfrey stunting on to Ciara showing the world how third-trimester pregnancy is done, Black beauty reigned supreme for the premiere of what’s sure to be a beautifully Black film.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at wafflecolored.com.
- Dylan Dilinjah Says Dave Chappelle’s Classic ‘Making the Band’ Sketch Ruined His CareerThe Brooklyn rapper said that the skit made it hard to get his career off the ground.03/04/2024
- Beyoncé Shares How She Shops Incognito At TargetIn a recent interview, the 32-time Grammy winner shared how she goes undetected at her favorite retail store.03/04/2024
- Scottie Pippen And Larsa Pippen Sued For $250 Million By His Alleged Ex-Girlfriend For Stalking And HarassmentChyvette Valentine claims she dated the former Chicago Bulls player between 1987 and 1993.03/04/2024
- Twin! Where Have You Been?! Muni Long Surprises And Inspires Screaming Brooklyn StudentsThe viral “Made For Me” singer stuns unsuspecting Brooklyn students.03/04/2024
- Rihanna Performs At Wedding In India For Multi-Billionaire HeirRiRi rocked the house while looking stunning per usual.03/04/2024
- Terry Crews Opens Up About Beating His Abusive Father On 'Club Shay Shay'The actor shared a big lesson on forgiveness and healing.03/04/2024