BET Awards: The 5 Most Powerful Moments of the Night

The BET Awards 2020 aired on June 28 and celebrated Black excellence in a world where protestors are calling out racism and Black Lives Matter protestors are taking to the streets. These demonstrations, as well as the police brutality deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, underpinned the night, with artists like Public Enemy and Alicia Keys delivering politically-charged performances and Beyoncé giving a widely-praised speech about the importance of voting.

The 5 Most Powerful Moments of the BET Awards 2020

Public Enemy and friends "Fight the Power"

As protesters across the world "fight the powers that be," there was no better time for Public Enemy to perform their iconic protest anthem—after all, the song was originally written for Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee's movie that features a black man being choked to death by the police.

Public Enemy members Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and Jahi were joined by Black Thought, Questlove, Nas, Rapsody, and YG for the performance, and the lyrics were updated to reflect the current moment.

Beyonce urges fans to vote

The BET Awards this year presented Beyoncé with the humanitarian award, and the icon gave a rousing acceptance speech. Michelle Obama introduced the singer by highlighting her commitment to the Black community, and Queen Bey used her speech to praise protestors and encourage then to vote.

She said: "I want to dedicate this award to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there inspiring me, marching and fighting for change. Your voices are being heard and you're proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain. Now we have one more thing we need to do to walk in our true power, and that is to vote.

"I'm encouraging you to continue to take action, continue to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system. There are people banking on us staying at home during local elections and primaries happening in states across the country. We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does."

Alicia Keys takes a knee

While Usher allowed viewers to forget the current moment and revel in romance for a moment, Alicia Keys brought them back to earth with an emotional tribute to those who have lost their lives to police violence.

The singer debuted new song "A Perfect Way to Die" for the first time, with the star singing with her piano in an empty street. At the end of the song, Keys knelt in the street and the camera panned up to reveal the names of dozens of people whose lives had been lost.

Anderson .Paak goes into "Lockdown"

Anderson .Paak had his own performance which offered a much angrier take on events. He performed "Lockdown" in make-up designed to make him look beat-up, and rapped part of the song in front of a mural showing police at a protest.

The lyrics for the song, which also features Jay Rock, also made reference to the current protests and the coronavirus. For example, the song begins, "Stayin' quiet when they killin' n***as, but you speak loud / When we riot, got opinions comin' from a place of privilege / Sicker than the COVID how they did him on the ground / Speakin' of the COVID, is it still goin' around?"

Usher and Summer Walker "Come Thru"

One day after releasing "I Cry," a song whose proceeds are going to Local Initiatives Support Corporation in order to support Black and minority businesses affected by Covid-19, Usher appeared at the BET Awards to perform another of his songs.

While his performance of songs "Session 32," "Come Thru" and "U Make Me Wanna" with Summer Walker lacked the political punch of his latest single, many praised Usher for delivering the latest in his great run of BET Awards performances.