BET Showed The Hip-Hop Awards Over The Million Man March -- Where's The Outrage?
Last night, while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were debating politics on CNN, BET aired its 2015 BET Hip-Hop Awards. All well and good. We even covered the rap cyphers which have become a staple of the popular awards show. Scarface (one of my top three rappers of all-time) won the night’s ICON award, something which should’ve been done much sooner, IMO. Yet…there has been little outrage about something else that went on that was important to people of color.
Yes, BET, which has been the home of such overtly righteous programming such as Teen Summit and BET Inspiration [#sarcasm] made the unwise decision to NOT air the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March on its network. Why? What force could possibly make Stephen Hill (President of Music Programming and Specials) and Debra Lee (Chief Executive Officer) not want to chronicle one of the most important gatherings in black and brown culture?
The answer is simple: Viacom.
The global mass media company owns Black Entertainment Television, which is no secret. But instead of waking up to the potential of minority-driven messages it seems that Viacom and the likes of Alan Greenberg, Robert Kraft, and Shari E. Redstone are aligned in ensuring the dissenting voices of the public remain quiet and in the background.
To a larger extent, none of the popular cable news companies in the game showed live the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. Instead, places such as CNN, Fox, ABC and NBC chose to focus on other stories and not give too much airtime to the ranting rhetoric of one Minister Louis Farrakhan. Voting control of Viacom is held by National Amusements, Inc., a privately owned theater company ran by billionaire Sumner Redstone.
What does this mean?
Plainly speaking, the powers-that-be who run Viacom might not have explicitly said to BET, “Don’t run the Million Man March live,” but it could be assessed that they knew not to tempt the fates. Spotlighting the gathering of black men and their families in Washington, D.C. seems to be persona non grata in the world of major mainstream media. The anger from those of color didn’t create a fast-tracked, globally-shared trending topic. Places like The Root, Atlanta Daily World and Blacknet all wrote pieces about the lack of coverage.
Everything from “unrealistic expectations” to “outrage” to “irate” were used to describe BET’s refusal to interrupt its regularly scheduled programming of The Parkers to express the #JusticeOrElse sentiment of a people. These qualms reflect the growing disdain that has followed BET for the past 15 years. Yet, the network continues to slam sugary salaciousness into the ears and minds of television watchers around the world. BET.com, the network’s digital arm, had a lack of coverage but at least had images and videos from the occasion.
To make matters even more intriguing, when attempts to reach BET were unsuccessful, reporters learned that the BET offices were closed in observance of Columbus Day. Columbus Day?! In the words of Amy Poehler, “Really?” Really, you would take the day off for a faux holiday, yet couldn’t even muster up the courage to produce live footage of the march which would benefit their core audience?! Despite all the attempts that BET has had over the last five years alone to cash in on the tragedies of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and others black and brown people who were unjustly taken from their families — BET fails to leverage its worth as a medium to stir and rally the pockets they rifle through.
In 1995 when the first Million Man March was happening, BET had its own dedicated news, a weekend show meant to inspire and inform its young and culturally stimulating programs meant to spotlight the growing force known as Hip-Hop. 20 years later and BET can’t even hide that it doesn’t even give a f**k about its own people. As Lauryn said, “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” — so how can BET and its ownership change the channel of its mediocrity? Simply put, not by boycotts — they will do nothing — but by staying woke on your own.
The Information Age has enabled us to learn through multiple means: streaming, Periscoping and staying locked into your timeline. BET will be BET. For us, the people who want to make a true and rooted future for ourselves, we must continue to keep the focus on receiving #JusticeOrElse.
Okay, players… What do you think about all this? Speak your piece in the comments below!