The BET Awards celebrated not only its 20th anniversary, but also the increased focus currently on the Black community and culture Sunday.
The show kicked off with teen gospel singer Keedron Bryant, 12, offering a powerful performance of his viral hit, “I Just Wanna Live.”
It then segued into Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy performing an updated rendition of their classic 1989 hit, “Fight The Power,” with Nas, Black Thought, Rapsody and more artists joining.
The theme of Sunday’s show — “Our Culture Can’t Be Canceled — comes at a time of cultural unrest over racial injustice in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Host Amanda Seales, a comic and actress on “Insecure,” referenced the show’s virtual production due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re getting real in touch with being real inside,” Seales quipped.
Given current events, she said, the show had to as well.
“We deserve a break,” Seales said. “And when I say ‘we,’ I mean all us black folks, watching the kneeling, the gratuitous Kente cloth, the ‘I take responsibility’ speeches and saying to ourselves, ‘Wow. Y’all goofy.'”
Seales paid tribute to classic BET programming, with skits that included her pretending to perform on the network’s famed “BET Comicview” stand up series.
The first performance of the night was presented by rapper Roddy Ricch, followed by singer John Legend.
Nicholas Johnson, Princeton University’s first black valedictorian in its 274-year history, also made a brief appearance.
Megan Thee Stallion received the evening’s first award, best female hip hop artist, and accepted the honor in a pre-recorded speech from quarantine.
The BET Awards announced last week that Beyoncé would be honored with their prestigious Humanitarian Award at Sunday’s 20th annual show.
The superstar singer and actress was chosen in recognition of her BeyGOOD initiative, through which she has established several scholarship and philanthropic foundations.
Most recently, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Beyoncé teamed up with her mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, for the #IDIDMYPART mobile testing initiative, supporting Houston communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Beyoncé also donated to support organizations on the ground that are working to meet the physical and mental health needs of those most vulnerable.