While mega-award winning artist Beyonce led the BET Awards with seven nominations and Bruno Mars right behind her with five nominations, taking home awards wasn't the only thing that was on the minds of the stars.
Coming off the heels of a week where the country saw non-guilty verdicts and a mistrial in the police shooting deaths of Philando Castile, Sylville Smith, and Samuel DuBose, noticeable this year were the number of young artists and entertainers who seemingly doubled down on last year's efforts to rally viewers and the black community around issues of social justice.
During her acceptance of the Young Stars Award,"Black-ish" actress Yara Shahidi took time to acknowledge Tamir Rice who was fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer at the age of twelve. Rice would have been 15 years old on Sunday. Shahidi also thanked BET for their support of blackness and its' contribution to society. "This is so appreciated and so necessary for my generation to see,” she added.
The recipient of the Humanitarian Award, Chance the Rapper mentioned specific justice concerns during his acceptance speech. The youngest ever to receive the honor, he was introduced by former First Lady Michelle Obama who applauded his work in the city of Chicago. The rapper spoke on the criminalization of marijuana and funding of the Chicago public school system.
Chance added that he wants to be a better man so he can continue to serve others, “I wanna be more involved than just my community of Chicago. I wanna travel overseas and help out people all over the world.”
When singer Solange Knowles presented the Shine A Light Award to activist Tamika Mallory, she asked the audience to share a brief moment of silence to lives lost to police brutality. Knowles, who was awarded the Centric Award at Sunday’s ceremony, also acknowledged that seeing positive images of black women like Missy Elliot (who was also nominated this year), Lil’ Kim and Lauryn Hill helped shape her career growing up.
Marking her first major awards show hosting gig, SNL cast mate Leslie Jones said recently that she wanted the event to be one big celebration. “I am looking to turn this whole experience into a joyful homecoming,” Jones said in a statement published last month.
Jones did get some big laughs with her quips about stalking music artist Maxwell and demanding $10 million dollars from championship boxer Floyd Mayweather.
The 17th annual awards show also featured some big wins: Queen Bey, who has reportedly given birth to twins whose names have yet-to be-revealed, took home five awards including the the coveted “Album of the Year Award" for “Lemonade,” (beating out sister Solange and Chance the Rapper). She also took home awards in four other categories including Best Female Pop/R&B artist, Video Director of the Year, Viewers Choice Award and she tied with Bruno Mars for Video of the Year. Though Beyonce wasn't there, her proteges Chloe x Halle accepted the Viewers Choice Award in her honor.
Other highlights included Bruno Mars receiving his first BET award winning Best Male Pop/R&B artist. Chance the Rapper, in addition to humanitarian acknowledgement, also accepted the honor of Best New Artist.
New Edition received a lengthy tribute as recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award and the audience saw a reunion of R&B 90's girl group Xscape who performed a melody of hits such as "Who Can I Run To."