Artists turn political at BET Awards

DaBaby performed for the BET Awards while replicating the last moments of George Floyd's life.
DaBaby performed for the BET Awards while replicating the last moments of George Floyd's life.

The BET Awards has served as an extension of the voices of black people protesting about the inequalities they face daily, as artists used their performances to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement, civil rights and the lives of those lost because of police officers, including George Floyd.

DaBaby, with his face pressed against the ground as an officer's knee crippled his neck, replicating the last moments of Floyd's life - rapped a verse from the Black Lives Matter remix of his hit song Rockstar.

His performance also featured images from protests, a reflection of the current world after Floyd's death and the death of others, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

Sunday's show was a virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 12-year-old sensation Keedron Bryant, who turned heads on social media with his passionate performance about being a young black man in today's world, started the show with an a cappella performance of his song I Just Wanna Live.

That was followed by an all-star performance of Public Enemy's 1989 anthem Fight the Power, featuring Nas, black Thought, Rapsody and YG adding new lyrics to the song.

Michelle Obama highlighted Beyonce's commitment to the black community before presenting her with the humanitarian award, saying: "You can see it in everything she does, from her music that gives voice to black joy and black pain, to her activism that demands justice for black lives."

Beyonce used her speech to encourage viewers to vote "like our life depends on it" in the November election.

"I want to dedicate this award to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there inspiring me, marching and fighting for change. Your voices are being heard and you're proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain. Now we have one more thing we need to do to walk in our true power, and that is to vote," she said.

The event was hosted by comedian Amanda Seales, who starred in several skits, including one about women who identify as "Karen", a common stereotype and term for racist and privileged white women.

The BET Awards is an annual celebration of black entertainment and culture, and this year's ceremony was the first major awards show since the May 25 death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked global protests aimed at reforming police actions and removing statues and symbols considered racist from public places.

Richh won album of the year for his debut Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial; Lizzo was named best female R&B/pop artist; and Burna Boy won best international act. Overall, Chris Brown, Beyonce and Ricch were the night's big winners, taking home two honours each.

Beyonce won the BET HER award for Brown Skin Girl, shared with daughter Blue Ivy Carter as well as Wizkid and Saint JHN.

Australian Associated Press