Beyond the dynamic performances and next-level fashion that everyone expects at the BET Awards, there’s also the speeches. Black artists having the platform to speak directly to the audience who most supports them has produced numerous memorable oratorical moments.
At this year’s BET Awards (June 28th at 8pm EST), there are sure to be even more poignant speeches. With the COVID-19 pandemic altering the course of everyday life and the protest against police brutality springing up around the world, some of your favs will have a word or two to share.
As we eagerly anticipate the 2020 BET Awards, let’s take a look back at speeches over the past few years that have made us all stop and listen.
At the 2019 BET Awards, Taraji P. Henson, a long-time collaborator of Tyler Perry, bestowed the movie mogul with the Ultimate Icon Award. Perry offered up details about his childhood and what a profound impact his mother and her group of friends had on his understanding of how powerful Black women are. Those early interactions surrounded by women became the seeds to his creativity that eventually grew into his multi-million dollar empire. Perry also spoke on why he chose to open his massive studio complex on one particular plot of land.
“When I built my studio, I built in a neighborhood that is one of the poorest black neighborhoods in Atlanta so that young kids can see that a Black man did that and they can do it, too,” said Perry. “The studio was once a Confederate Army base, and, I want you to hear this, which meant that there was Confederate soldiers on that base, plotting and planning on how to keep 3.9 million negroes enslaved. Now that land is owned by one negro.”
Director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan were on hand to accept the honor for Best Movie at the 2018 BET Awards. Black Panther was a global blockbuster with more than a billion dollars in box office receipts. Largely supported by African Americans who dressed up in their best Wakandan attire to attend screenings, the film was a game changer. Coogler acknowledged the Black base that took the movie to new heights.
“You guys made it something special. Thank you to everybody who bought tickets, who stood out in the cold, who raised money for youngsters to come see the movie. Thank you to Black Twitter for riding for us,” said Coogler. “This was about tapping into that voice that we always hear that tells us to be proud of who we are and where we come from.”
Rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle was posthumously honored with the Humanitarian Award at the 2019 BET Awards. Hussle, birth name Ermias Ahghedom, was gunned down just months earlier in front of a clothing store he owned. The Crenshaw native was constantly investing in his neighborhood and had elaborate plans to do more. Actress Lauren London, Hussle’s partner and mother of his youngest child, thanked everyone for their support and assuring everyone that the marathon would continue. Hussle’s mother Angelique Smith spoke words of comfort to friends and fans of the late rapper after she detailed her feelings and thought process at the scene of his death.
”One of Ermias’s close friends was very traumatized,” said Smith. “I told him, ‘You know that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, right? You understand that right?’ So even though our bodies die, as they call it on this side of eternity, our spirits live.”
Actor/activist Jesse Williams had a few things to get off his chest when he accepted the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards. At the time, he had just produced a documentary called Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement, so it comes as no surprise that he came with a fact-filled speech that pulled no punches. Even though this was four years ago, the entire speech still applies today, especially as the protests rise up all over the country.
“If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression,” said Williams. “If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for Black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
(Photo by Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET)