In March, BET's chief executive, Debra Lee invited 130 women to Washington DC for what one reporter called a historically black sorority meeting on steroids. The purpose of the meeting was to bring women of influence together to create a positive change , especially as it relates to images of women in the media. She promised that she would work with her programming staff to create more diverse and responsible programming on BET and it's other channels. Not everyone who heard about the meeting was convinced, some believed that the meeting was just a PR stunt to deflect attention away from the shameful performance at last years BET Awards featuring Lil' Wayne and Drake on stage with a group of young girls dancing while they rapped, "I wish I could f**k every girl in the world". So naturally when this years awards came around BET supporters and critics alike hunkered down in front of their televisions to see if Ms. Lee would keep her promise. Now, I don't think anyone expected the network would use the awards show to make a sweeping deceleration of Black female empowerment, but it was understood that this would provide BET the opportunity to set the tone for the next 10 years. So how did they do?
It's hard to say, on one hand I didn't see anything that I would classify as overtly offensive to women - Lil' Wayne was absent, Drake was on his best behavior, and aside from Jada walking out on stage in her skimmies (did she leave her pants backstage?) most of the women were dressed much the way I've come to expect at these kinds of events. (we'll talk about that in another post). On the other hand there were subtle but powerful messages sent by the artists chosen for awards and to perform. First, Alicia Keys - boo'd up and pregnant by the man she's accused of stealing from his ex-wife. This was a popular topic of conversation online and in living rooms across the country. Is she a trollop (someone else's word - not mine) or a innocent victim of love? Should we celebrate the fact that she's found love and happiness or should we remove her from the role model list? Or perhaps we should focus our attention on the other half of this equation, the one who broke his vows, leaving his wife confused and depressed. Or maybe we should just mind our own business and enjoy the music. On a side note: Alicia, I'm gonna need you to chill on the piano crawling for the next five or six months. You almost gave Prince a heart-attack!
Then there was Chris Brown. The troubled young man who landed himself on shit lists around the world but was celebrated last night by being given the honor to perform the Micheal Jackson tribute and as the recipient of the Fandemonium award. He breaks down in tears during his performance and promises to do better during his acceptance speech and now all is forgiven. Forgiveness is good, we should all strive to be more forgiving, but let us not forget that crying and apologizing is how most abusers keep their victims in dangerous relationships . I'm not saying the Chris isn't a changed man, I truly hope he's learned his lesson and gotten the help he needs. I am prepared to forgive him, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to celebrate him.
Finally, I have to give BET props for the Prince tribute. The all female tribute featuring the lesser known but equally as talented fringe artists was a great move. I hope more people discover Janae and Esperanza, both are examples of the creative and diverse world of women in the arts.
All is all, I think BET did an O.K. job with this year's awards show. I'm still not convinced that the network has changed its ways for good, but I'm willing to give them a chance.
I've got my eye on you, BET
What do you think...Did Debra Lee keep her word?
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