Last weekend, Nigeria was dully represented at the BET Awards as Davido won in the Best International Act category and ultimately made history by becoming the first African musician to receive an award on the BET main stage. Behind this proud moment is a 7-year-old tale of what was deemed a ‘systematic marginalization’.
In 2011 (10 years after the BET Awards kicked off), two new categories were introduced “Best International Act: Africa” and “Best International Act: UK” to celebrate musicians of black origins who were not resident in America. This was a very needful addition because around this time, African music had gathered a lot of momentum through the hard work of 2Baba, the Mo’Hits and their like. Same was the case in the United Kingdom. Now BET is the biggest and most respected award for people of black origins and it made absolute sense that they saw the need to celebrate other black musicians across the world especially Africa (regarded as) the motherland of black people.
But this is what happened. In 2011, when the nominees in the Best International Act categories got to LA for the award ceremony, they realised that they were not going to receive the award on the BET main stage like their American contemporaries. According to reports, they were presented the award backstage hours before the main event kicked off and more surprising was the fact that the award for Best International Act: Africa was handed to both 2Baba and DBanj. Same was the case in 2012 when the BET made Wizkid and Sarkodie winners. The award later began to award just one winner from 2013 with Ice Prince being the first solo recipient.
Why Is It Important For International Acts To Receive Their Award On The BET Main Stage?
The answer is simply for a wider reach. The BET Award is transmitted to millions of people across the world and receiving an award on the main stage will expose recipients to new audiences and grant them the opportunity to stand proudly before their American contemporaries.
The Beginning Of Revolution
The marginalization and deprivation of full exposure by the BET awards continued for years until 2015 when African artistes began to speak up. UK-based Ghanaian artiste Fuse ODG took to social media to profess his discontent at the organizers for not presenting the award to International Acts on the main stage.
Dear @BET, the reason why I didn’t come is because you give our awards backstage! You have no respect for our hard work and achievements
— Fuse ODG (@FuseODG) June 28, 2015
In the same year, Wizkid who was nominated in the African category also refused to participate in the activities of award as a result of the backstage situation. Here’s what he tweeted after the show.
Lol So I’m hearing BET is mad cos I didn’t come for the pre shows and interviews! Lol.
— Wizkid (@wizkidayo) June 29, 2015
But I won’t be attending ur preshows and nominee parties if I’m getting the award at 10am before the main show. — Wizkid (@wizkidayo) June 29, 2015
Same reason I didn’t come back stage to pick up the award when I won the first time
— Wizkid (@wizkidayo) June 29, 2015
Yemi Alade who was also a nominee joined in the protest and called out the award saying; It is wrong to nominate huge African stars and publicly try to humiliate Africa.
In reaction to all of these, BET released a statement to South African news platform (City Press) explaining that; “Like any televised award ceremony, the BET Awards uses prerecorded segments to ensure that as many honourees as possible are included in the show. In some instances this means that segments of the show are prerecorded.”
PS: None of these backstage moments were ever televised.
Indeed the BET Awards is a huge platform – the biggest Black Entertainment award even. But the fact that they refused to give total honour to African musicians who represent the root of black origin couldn’t be ignored but after 7-years, the Award decided to evolve and give due respect to black musicians who are not resident in the U.S.
For the first time ever, the #BETAwards2018 Best International Act category winner will be presented on the main stage.
— BET Africa (@BET_Africa) May 16, 2018
BET decided this year to merge the award for Best International Act: Africa and Best International Act: UK and for the first time, announced that the winner will be awarded on the main stage.
Of course, Davido, Tiwa Savage and Casper Nyovest were nominated alongside an array of International heavyweights and as everyone saw, Davido won the award, and became the first African artiste to receive an award on the BET main stage.
In the words of Mr. Alex Okosi, the newly appointed Executive Vice President/Managing Director of BET International and Head of Viacom Africa, “Davido’s victory is a tremendous testament to how our (African) music has really travelled far and wide. He was in competition with great talents from the UK, France and other parts of the world and I think it just says (A) Davido is an incredibly talent and (B) Nigeria is really an incredible source of music in the global youth culture. It’s an amazing accomplishment for David, and an amazing accomplishment for the music industry in Africa.”
It is also needful to note that Davido’s victory is a also a testament to the power of unity. If Wizkid had not snubbed the award in 2015, If Fuse ODG had not ignored the BET or if Yemi Alade didn’t call them out for not presenting the award to Africans before their American contemporaries, this moment that we celebrate may not have happened.
This is a proof of the power we posses when our voices echo in unity. If this same unity is replicated in other areas like politics and over the negligence that is constantly displayed by the government in regards to the well-being of everyday people, them we may just be few years away from solving key national issues like insecurity. This has been a particularly sad week in Nigeria; from the massacre of innocent citizens in Jos to the fire accident that claimed the lives of and properties of many in Lagos.
The government has failed us. We are all we have.
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