After this year’s jam-packed event, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the BET Awards should officially be changed to the BET Turn Up because anytime all of our favorite artists pack a house, a turn up is definitely sure to ensue. From Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar opening up the show with “Freedom” to Sheila E,’s long-awaited tribute to Prince and Jesse Williams’ powerful “woke” message about how #BlackLivesMatter, the night was one to go down in the history books.
To kick off this memorable night, BET quickly got us all in formation with a surprise appearance by Beyoncé, who surprised the crowd with a live performance of “Freedom.” The singer was joined by rapper Kendrick Lamar and silently waited for her dancers as they marched into the theater to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and performed a water dance.
BET also provided us with a series of tributes to Prince throughout the show. Highlights included Jennifer Hudson’s bringing down the house with “Purple Rain”; soul singer Bilal channeling the Purple One in his performance of “The Beautiful Ones”; and Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly teaming up for the “Purple Rain” duet “Take Me with U.”
Maxwell also belted out “Nothing Compares 2 U”; Janelle Monet revved up the crowd with a set of Prince songs that included “Kiss”; and Shelia E closed out the show with a string of Prince hits, including “Erotic City” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” If those tributes alone didn’t take you back, I don’t know what show you were tuned into.
The theme of social and political activism was present throughout the entire night. Hosts Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson (for a second year in a row) repeatedly reminded viewers to get out and vote, while “Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams, who received the Humanitarian Award, delivered arguably the most inspiring speech of the evening that called for action and change in the community.
“The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize,” he said, dedicating his award to black women “who have spent their lives dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves.”
“We can and will do better for you,” he said.
Check out some footage of last night’s performances and let us know which ones were your fave down below in the comments section.
By Monique C. Tillman