Rarely do I watch BET. Growing up, I thought it just wasn’t a good network, mediocre at best. The news show was sub par, the reporting even worse. And the selection of shows, personally, I thought were lacking in substance and often times talent. As time progressed, and ownership changed hands, it slipped even further into the back of my mind as a station to watch only if, emphasis on the only, they were showing The Color Purple, Harlem Nights, or some other movie of merit. When Aaron McGruder’s "Hunger Strike" Boondocks episode depicted his thoughts on BET was banned I thought that it was censorship taken too far as the episode was, albeit sensationalized in a way that portrays McGruder’s wit and critical tongue, accurate.
Last night, I watched the BET Awards, not to support BET, but to see how they would (mis)handle the death of Michael Jackson. I was not mistaken in my initial skepticism of how they would incorporate the death of Michael Jackson into the makeup of the show. A friend said that it felt as if Michael’s death was used more as a hook to get a larger audience than anything else. In many ways, I agree. I will not touch on that here because the point of this post is to reflect on at least (and sadly at most) one positive thing that I saw at the BET Awards last night: the time taken to honor those whose life story and work deserves more attention that it receives.
I salute those at BET who insisted on including those segments of the show to pay homage to members of the Black community outside of the music and entertainment industry. Jamie Foxx introduced Mayor-Elect James Young who will serve as mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi, site where three Civil Rights workers were killed in 1964 and a site where tumultuous, racial tensions persist—in other words, a place where the KKK was once truly king. We, as a nation, heard about those individuals who started and maintain Food from the Hood (FFTH), a community based organization that serves to educate (in the larger sense of the word) others outside the classroom yet still within the community. We heard about how this community based organization is able to provide scholarship moneys for youth to go beyond the boundaries of their neighborhood or city for school. We, as an audience, as a collective body, were also reminded of the three friends—Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt—who beat the odds to become successful doctors and how they then, with their new positions in life, work to help others follow in their footsteps. So, I say, kudos to BET. I also encourage all to look up some of the work of these individuals as it is important to not only be aware of their work but also be cognizant of the work being done.
Rarely are minority groups, especially Blacks, able to control their image. Rarer still do minorities have a medium through which to show our “better half,” our “better side,” for these moments are usually relegated to spaces with smaller audiences and narrower ranges. This is especially true when there is no dancing or singing involved (which is also a topic for discussion). The media harks on the dark side, the side some of wish to forget, to disassociate from: the crime, the desolate living conditions that “the poor” caused to fall upon themselves, the crime, the high dropout rates, and the crime. This small glimmer of light in an otherwise dismally dark show made enduring it worthwhile. I say again, kudos to BET.
Selfless Signal-Boosting Wednesday
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