Whenever Beyonce’ drops an album a new era begins so when she dropped “Lemonade” in April everybody got in “Formation”. BET is no exception. The network’s 16th annual awards show began with Beyonce’ serving a tall glass of fierceness as she and rapper Kendrick Lamar opened the show with her song “Freedom”. The two delivered the powerful performance dripping with black pride in ankle deep water with flames dancing in the background. It was our second favorite moment of the night.
Just as chatworthy as Lemonade’s debut in April, was the shocking and untimely death of Prince. Billboard was the first to honor the musical icon at their 24th awards show back in May but some were not satisfied with what Billboard put together for an artist with the history of Prince Nelson Rogers. BET threw shade, promising to do better. And they did, littering their show with tributes from start to finish. From Bilal and Erykah Badu to Maxwell to Jennifer Hudson to Janelle Monae, the purple one’s impact was reflected through the artists he’s inspired throughout his decades long career. But none compared to Prince’s protege, Sheila E., taking the stage in an energetic and emotional performance to honor the man who introduced her to the world.
Our absolute favorite moment of the night was actor/activist Jessie Williams’ speech after being presented with this year’s Humanitarian Award. The actor is known for his outspokenness against racism and inequality. Last night was no different.
“This award is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country, the activist, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. It’s kinda basic mathematics: the more we learn about who we are and how we got here the more we will mobilize.
This award is also for the black women in particular who have spent their lives nurturing everyone before themselves — we can and will do better for you.
Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we’re going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours. [Standing ovation.]
I got more, y’all. Yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday so I don’t want to hear any more about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television, and then going home to make a sandwich.
Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner, Sandra Bland.
The thing is though, all of us here are getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. Dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back to put someone’s brand on our body — when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies?
There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There is no job we haven’t done, there is no tax they haven’t levied against us, and we have paid all of them.
But freedom is always conditional here. ‘You’re free!’ they keeping telling us. But she would be alive if she hadn’t acted so… free. Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but the hereafter is a hustle: We want it now.
Let’s get a couple of things straight. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander — that’s not our job so let’s stop with all that. If you have a critique for our resistance then you’d better have an established record, a critique of our oppression.
If you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do: sit down.
We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil — black gold! — ghettoizing and demeaning our creations and stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.
Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real. Thank you.”
Other notable highlights of the show were a tribute to boxer/activist Muhammed Ali by Jamie Foxx and Ali’s daughter/boxer Laila Ali, Usher performing “No limit” wearing a jacket that read “Don’t Trump America” and Samuel L. Jackson receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award.
During his speech, Jackson admitted that he hadn’t heard a speech like Jesse Williams’ since the 1960’s and thanked his accountants for making sure he paid his taxes so he attend the show.
Watch clips of our fave moments and see the full list of winners below.
Here’s the complete list of 2016 BET Award winners.
- Best Male R&B/Pop Artist — Bryson Tiller
- Best Female R&B/Pop Artist — Beyoncé
- Best Actor — Michael B. Jordan
- Best Actress — Taraji P. Henson
- Best Movie — “Straight Outta Compton”
- Best New Artist — Bryson Tiller
- Video of the Year — Beyoncé, “Formation”
- Best Male Hip-Hop Artist — Drake
- Best Female Hip-Hop Artist — Nicki Minaj
- Best Collaboration — Rihanna ft. Drake, “Work”
- Best Group — Drake and Future
- Best Gospel — Kirk Franklin
- Youngsters Award — Amandla Stenberg
- Centric Award — Beyoncé, “Formation”
- Video Director of the Year — Director X
- Dr. Bobby Jones Gospel Inspirational Award — Kirk Franklin
- Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award — Beyoncé, “Formation”
- Sportsman of the Year — Stephen Curry
- Sportswoman of the Year — Serena Williams
- Best International Act Africa — Wizkid (Nigeria)
- Best International Act U.K. — Skepta
- Humanitarian Award — Jesse Williams
- Lifetime Achievement Award — Samuel L. Jackson