Celebrities and industry leaders descended on the nation’s capital this past weekend for the 5th annual BET Honors.
The star-studded event, which celebrates African American achievement, honored Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Maya Angelou, Spike Lee, Beverly Kearney and the Tuskegee Airmen.
Every aspect of the weekend was brilliantly executed to ensure that nothing but the best was dished out to honorees and guests. More important than the thread of black opulence woven into the fabric of the festivities was the inspiration that attendees vowed to take home with them. Here’s what made the weekend unforgettable:
1) The sense of solidarity
It’s not too often that the playing field is leveled to the extent that it’s clearly understood that “everybody is somebody.” That was the general sentiment of the weekend – we must demonstrate love towards one another and remain unified in order for our community to prevail. Some manifested this by making references to the 2012 presidential election and the need to vote Barack Obama back into office.
Others, like artists Common and Anthony Hamilton, conveyed this message by the degree of accessibility that they afforded fans. Nick Cannon’s deeply touching introduction of his wife Mariah Carey, as he held their toddler son, was perhaps the best example. Sharing sacrifices made by her such as late night bedside care as he recovered from his recent experience of minor kidney failure, Cannon made it clear that he proudly stands by his wife’s side as her #1 fan.
2) The image of women running the world
The immense power held by black women in various arenas of leadership is breathtaking to behold when it is concentrated in one space. First Lady Michelle Obama was greeted with a standing ovation that lasted so long that she encouraged everyone to take their seats.
The likes of Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, and Mariah Carey who have been towering figures in the music industry also heightened the feeling that women have taken center stage in the world of entertainment.
Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey (who appeared via video) represented the strength and fortitude of black women who have the capacity to transcend social barriers. Then, there was BET Chairman and CEO Debra Lee and her entourage of female executives whose hard work left an indelible imprint on every aspect of the weekend.
3) The reminder that there’s no excuse for mediocrity
We’re all faced with adversity but what matters most is how we respond to those challenges. Life will continuously knock us down but how fast we get back up is the true measure of who we are. It was inspiring to hear Beverly Kearney’s story of tragedy and triumph. After surviving a car accident that killed two of her friends and led doctors to believe that she would be paralyzed for the rest of her life, Kearney pressed forward despite the pain. She coached from a wheelchair until she could walk again and she raised the daughter of one of the car accident victims. The cane that she gripped as she gave her remarks stood as a symbol of her resilience. Her refusal to give up left no excuse for mediocrity in the lives of those who had the good fortune of hearing her testimony.
4) The Charge to Continuously “Fight the Power”
Stevie Wonder’s performance of “Living for the City” in honor of Spike Lee was magnified by a clip of a protest scene from Lee’s School Daze and an “Occupy” skit done by young people.
The emphasis placed on Lee’s films as mediums of social protest challenged the audience to think about the use of one’s gift for the purposes of social transformation and not solely entertainment. When giving his remarks, Lee referenced the degrading imagery of blacks in videos and the need for our community to do better.
Similarly, two surviving Tuskegee Airmen gave an account of heroic actions that opposed the discrimination they once endured. Standing behind them was Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terence Howard who will bring their collective story to life via George Lucas’ Red Tails , which will hit theaters this Friday. Jokes made by the ceremony’s host, actress Gabrielle Union, about the scarcity of roles for black actors in Hollywood suggested that every field of victory simply moves our community into new battleground.
5) The homage paid to God for producing magic
Award ceremonies are always packed with references to God’s role in making one’s success possible. It’s a staple in almost every acceptance speech. But one word made the references to God at BET Honors unforgettable – “magic.” Rarely used in the context of faith language, it was quite moving to hear Stevie Wonder point to God as the author of magic in his life.
Using the word to describe the impossibilities of life becoming possible, Wonder described a whimsical relationship with his Creator that leaves him excited about what each day has to offer. Coincide and luck have no place in that world where a grand Creator orchestrates magical moments that change the course of history. Moments that usher us into greatness towards a life deserving of nothing but honor.
Be sure to watch the BET Honors during Black History Month, on Monday, February 13 at 9:00pm EST.
Rahiel Tesfamariam is the founder / editorial director of Urban Cusp, an online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. Follow Rahiel on Twitter. You can also follow Urban Cusp on Twitter and on Facebook.
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