Beyoncé was honored with the Humanitarian Award at the 20th annual BET Awards Sunday.
At the network’s first virtual award show amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Michelle Obama presented the decorated artist with the award, stating that Bey “has been lighting up the stages and gracing the world with her talent, with her generosity of spirit and with her love for her community.” She continued, “You can see it in everything she does from her music that gives voice to Black joy and Black pain to her activism that demands justice for Black lives.”
Beyoncé dedicated the award to the protesters “marching and fighting for change” in a prerecorded video statement, saying they inspired her.
“Your voices are being heard and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain,” she said. The “Lemonade” artist then implored them to vote in this year’s elections.
“I’m encouraging you to continue to take action, continue to change and dismantle racist and unequal systems. We have to continue to do this together,” she said. “Continue to fight for each other and lift each other up because 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 depended on it because it does.”
Beyoncé was honored for her philanthropic work throughout her career and with her nonprofit organization, BeyGOOD. Over the past few years, the artist has established scholarships for students of historically Black colleges and universities, provided food for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and helped bring clean water to the East African country of Burundi.
Most recently, BeyGOOD coordinated a COVID-19 testing initiative for disproportionately affected Black and brown neighborhoods in Houston.
She has also used her platform to speak out against injustice against marginalized communities. On Juneteenth, she launched a National Urban League-administered Black Business Fund to support Black-owned small businesses.
In addition, Beyoncé won the BET Her Award. She was also nominated for Best Female R&B/Pop Artist and Album of the Year.
Following her statement, BET aired a teaser for “Black is King,” a visual album premiering on Disney+ on July 31. Watch the teaser below.