Sunday marked the 21st annual BET Awards, which honors Black excellence in television, film, music, and sports.
Focusing heavily on uplifting the voices of Black women, this year’s ceremony was hosted by actress Taraji P. Henson, who honored and paid tribute to Black queens throughout the show. “Tonight you’ll get 100% of our full Blackness,” she said in her opening speech. “This is where we matter. Where our Black entertainment matters. This is 2021, and we’re celebrating the year of the Black woman. Celebrating Black women is not a fad or a trend, it’s a forever mood.”
Notable Black women who were given well-deserved awards include H.E.R, Jazmine Sullivan, Andra Day, SZA, Marsai Martin, Megan Thee Stallion, Naomi Osaka, and Cardi B.
The Lifetime Achievement Award, which is considered the most prestigious honor of the ceremony, was presented to Queen Latifah. In her honor, MC Lyte, Rapsody, Lil’ Kim, and Monie Love performed her trailblazing rap songs “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y” before she accepted the award.
“I want to thank BET for creating an outlet for beautiful Blackness to thrive, to shine, when we couldn’t get played on the radio and other places,” Latifah said during her speech. “We couldn’t get our videos played in other places; there was BET that allowed us to be in our fullness and to shine.”
Holding a photograph of her late mother Rita Owens, she said, “I’ve always celebrated the woman because I was raised by a strong Black woman, raised by a father who loves women. I wanted to celebrate us because I know together we stand stronger than we tear each other apart.”
Below, watch last night’s most stunning and invigorating performances by Black women.
H.E.R Performs ‘We Made It’ As A One-Woman Show
Jazmine Sullivan Is Joined By Ari Lennox And Maxine Waters For ‘Tragic’ And ‘On It’