Aretha Franklin performs in "Amazing Grace," a film documenting her 1972 live album of the same name. (Courtesy of NEON)
Aretha Franklin performs in "Amazing Grace," a film documenting her 1972 live album of the same name. (Courtesy of NEON)

I will begin by stating that I am a senior citizen journalist/amateur historian who, during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, had memorable experiences of attending at least two or more concerts featuring some of the most inspiring and brilliant Black artists of the 20th century. As a journalist, I met and interviewed many of them. They provided me and others with soulful and entertaining experiences that remain with us.

They included Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Donnie Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Roberta Flack, B.B. King, Max Roach, Abby Lincoln, Teddy Pendergrass, The O’Jays, the Four Tops and the Staples Singers, among others.

Unfortunately, the kind of Black cultural experience they provided was mostly absent at the recent BET Awards show. As I watched the entire three hours, it was sorrowful to see so many Black artists performing with a notable lack of what some of us call soul. Throughout the entire show, the host consistently referred to it as an entertaining and cultural presentation. To me, it may have been a cultural experience for some, but it wasn’t a Black cultural experience. In fact, it was a kind of European-American cultural presentation that can be often seen on television and on stages throughout the country.

Other things that, to me, showed its lack of soul was so many Black women and men with dyed or bewigged blond hair, of Black men wearing sunglasses when there was no sun in sight, of so many women jumping around the stage in “shake yo’ booty” outfits, of Black men and women with egotistical one name, of too many Black men and women on stage and in the audience who have completely embraced the European concept of fashion and dress.

All of the above made watching the BET Awards show a negative experience for serious Black people who strongly believe that Black culture is a vital contributor in our efforts to promote and protect our human and civil rights in this basically white supremacist society. We totally reject the concept that European-American culture is superior to ours. In fact, many whites in the cultural and entertainment arenas have artistically and financially exploited the talents of so many Black artists. They are well aware of the greatness of Black cultural and artistic contributions. There was very little Black culture for them to exploit at the BET show.

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