If you traveled south long enough on 13th Street NW on Saturday night, you might have run into some road closures. No, Obama didn’t order the streets closed, and there was no marathon — instead BET, headquartered in the District, took over the street for the BET Honors, their annual awards show dedicated to honoring the excellence in African Americans.
After walking along the red carpet, passing an outdoor coat check, and past several layers of security, guests were welcomed into the cozy Warner Theatre where for the next three hours they’d see performances by Mariah Carey, Tamar Braxon, Janelle Monae, Jennifer Hudson, Smokie Robinson and even by host Wayne Brady.
In one aisle, Scandal‘s Joe Morton struggled to find his seat after it had been inadvertently filled by a “seat filler,” while Rev. Jesse Jackson went to say hello to Smokie Robinson, who was sitting a few rows ahead of him. Two locals — R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn and radio host Russ Parr — sat in the same row.
The evening honored the best in African American culture. American Express CEO Ken Chenault accepted the corporate citizen award. He told the audience when accepting, “Focus on the one thing you can control…your performance.”
Anthony Anderson presented the visual arts award to Carrie Mae Weems, (read more about that here!) an in an unexpected moment of honest perspective, she told the audience, “Most of you don’t know who I am…and so I thank BET for going beyond popular culture.”
My favorite moments were when Ludacris presented the entertainment award to Ice Cube, and when Smokey Robinson presented the visionary award to Berry Gordy. It was nice to see men expressing their unapologetic love for one another without a quick “no homo” afterward. (Well, Berry Gordy did clarify that his bromance with Smokey was between “two straight males.”)
Aretha Franklin received a fitting tribute by Jennifer Hudson, who sung pitch perfectly a string of ‘Retha hits. Later, the Queen of Soul took the stage herself to perform “Change Gon’ Come.”
Janelle Monae along with Tamar Braxton performed in a tribute to Berry Gordy.
To watch and see for yourself, tune into The BET Honors on Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT .
p.s. I was a bit disappointed that Gabrielle Union wasn’t returning as host but as BET CEO, Debra Lee said, “She’s a bit busy right now.” Still, Wayne Brady completely changed my opinion. He was refreshingly brilliant. He combined all the things he’s good at — adlibbing, quipping, and freestyling — to become a great host. He even tried to seal the deal for 2015, by closing out the show with a “I hope to see you all next year.” We hope to see you too Wayne! We really do.