Over a week has passed since the 2015 BET Awards took place and what did my eyes witness yet again? The blatant dis-respect of African musical achievements. How can a network which claims to celebrate BLACK people, present awards to African artists backstage and in front of a minor audience? This is not a celebration, this is a complete dis-regard of the African presence in music.
If I’m honest, I didn’t even know the BET network existed until about the Summer of 2013. Yes, I know – where were you, I hear you say. Or maybe now you’re thinking, well, you haven’t missed much. I hadn’t heard of BET simply because I never had Sky in my house and I read books most of the time anyway. My parents always claimed it was too expensive, which back in the day made sense, but looking back I realised there was another reason. They didn’t want me and my sisters to be glued to the TV screen. Now, I’m grateful Sky has never existed at home (yes I still live with my parents, sigh). So, how did I discover this channel? Well, my boyfriend always had it on at his place and I hate to admit it now, but I was hooked, just as he was, until we became conscious. Now we recognise that BET is not the empowering force we once perceived it to be.
Before watching the ceremony I saw how Fuse ODG took to Twitter to express his feelings towards the treatment of African artists. Seeing this tweet, along with a tweet from Dencia, really took me by surprise. I kept asking myself, how can they present an award like that? That’s just plain rude.
I had no idea this even happened. What I saw from the 2014 event – or what I heard actually, was a suspiciously quiet audience. An African artist goes to pick up his award and you hardly hear anyone clapping. It was like that moment in a cartoon when that random bundle of hay rolls by, because it’s that empty… Made me wonder if that bit of the ceremony took place before the real thing. Either that or the audience couldn’t give two jellofs. What I saw this time round actually shocked me. I saw the very reason why Fuse refused to attend. I saw an African winner who was given his award backstage! I could not believe my eyes.
The sad thing was, the winner, who was from Uganda was so happy to be there, as a lot of new musicians from Africa are so eager to make a name in America. Some might say if they’re happy what’s the problem? The problem is they don’t see through the lie. They go there thinking how they are being treated is acceptable. it might not be on the big stage but meh, I’ve been nominated by BET! America recognises me! Oh please America doesn’t care. I didn’t see any afro-beats artists perform. I didn’t see any sort of dedication, time and effort going into presenting what African music is all about. I didn’t see anything respecting and acknowledging Africa. Are black Americans that distant from the African in their ‘African-American’ status, that they choose not to care?
I remember seeing a short clip of the BET CEO/Chairman, where she outlined how she got to where she is today and most importantly, what the purpose of the black channel is, and what the vision of BET is. I remember hearing her say this network is about ’empowering’, ‘elevating’ and ‘celebrating’ black people. Normally I would cheer when a black person expresses positivity like this but then I said to myself wait – how is BET even doing any of these things? The only show I’ve seen which comes close to the vision is ‘Let’s Stay Together’. You see two beautiful black couples. You see positive healthy black love. This is something worth celebrating any day. Everything else I saw? Real Housewives of Atlanta? Seriously? Real? Not even their hair was real. And what was that nonsense Real Husbands of Hollywood about? Is that supposed to represent the definition of black manhood? And if so, how is that empowering? Yes it’s a comedy but the men don’t exactly do anything that makes them ‘real’. Or is being ‘real’ and funny too much to ask?
As I said earlier, I hadn’t even known BET existed until 2013, so I don’t know what came before. But what I keep hearing is that the channel was better before. After learning that the network is white owned, I still can’t help but wonder if it was better before because it was black owned to begin with. I say this because, how can a non-black person own a TV network that has a sole purpose of empowering, elevating and celebrating BLACK people? Only black people can understand what empowers us, what elevates us and what we need to celebrate, because we have experienced historical, political, social, emotional and economical struggles which have prevented us from doing these things in the first place!
It’s sad for me to say this but, dis-respecting African artists who ironically see America as a place for them to be loved, says to me, that the BET network is nothing but a manifestation of Black Americans rejecting their own people. BET say ‘we got you’. I say, you got ‘you’ twisted.
– Eunice –