The day of the event began as they all do for a media member. You get there, check in, jockey for position and then the work begins.
An indication that things might be a little different was given by the young actress Yara Shahidi, of the show “Black-ish.” As she happily posed for the photographers, one among the bunch wanted a little more.
“Hey Yara, over the shoulder,” he suggested.
Like a seasoned pro and classy young woman, she replied, “I’m just 16 years old.”
Small incident, you’d think. But if the who, what, where, when, why and how are aligned correctly, saying something that offended an artist can get you removed from that and future events. What’s crazier though is that if a fellow journalist were to check an out-of-line peer, the checker can meet the same fate.
Although it seems minuscule in the grand scheme of things, it’s a real issue. Although an agenda of Black art without Black people seems to be unfolding slowly but surely, the phasing out of Black documentarians of our art is much more blatant and accelerated. An actor noted why this development is important a few years back when in a film review for CNN he stated, “Media portrayals greatly affect, if not entirely construct, how we interpret ‘otherness.’ People see what they are shown, and little else. It’s why my dad forced me to study and value history from an absurdly young age—to build a foundation solid enough to withstand cultural omissions from the curriculum and distortions from the media. It’s what led me to become a teacher of American and African history out of college. There is a glaring difference in outlook between those who have mined the rich, empowering truth about how we’ve come to be, and those who just accept that there’s only one or two people of African descent deemed worthy of entire history books.”
This same young actor, Jessie Williams, expressed the same intellect and insight in front of a global audience as he, the recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year Award, left as the talk of the 2016 BET Awards. On a night when Beyoncé, with a surprise performance, showed why she is who she is, when Bilal, Jennifer Hudson and Sheila E. in particular demonstrated the staying power and soul of the music of Prince Rogers Nelson, it was Williams who left the collective mouths agape and left the most impactful impression long after the show was completed. Experience some of the realness of his acceptance speech. (SEE PAGE 13)
At 34, Williams is young enough and strong enough to help right the ship. Who’s down to help?
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.