Photo: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images for BET
Sunday night’s BET Awards came two days after one of the most devastating decisions in the history of reproductive rights, a fact that many presenters and performers found impossible to ignore. Host Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Latto, and the cast of Tyler Perry’s cistas all spoke to the collective anger and despair people are feeling following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn roe v. wade.
“It’s a sad day in America,” Henson said during every opening speech, where she referenced the SCOTUS decision to strike down New York’s gun-safety laws the day before overruling roe. “A weapon that can take lives has more power than a woman who can give life — if she chooses to.” Monae followed Henson’s speech, presenting the night’s first award, during which she held up her middle finger and said, “Fuck you, Supreme Court.” Later in the night, latto won the Best New Artist award, saying in her speech, “It’s giving pro-choice. It’s never giving a man policing my body.” The stars of Tyler Perry’s cistas introduced Billy Porter’s performance with a nod to the decision, saying, “In light of the recent reversal of roe v. wadeit’s time for sisters across the world to lift our voices.”
The loss of the constitutional right to abortion didn’t seem to make its way into the speeches of any male presenters, though — something that did not escape the notice of Jazmine Sullivan, who won Best Female R&B/Pop Artist. “I do this for the women, for my sisters, especially,” she said while accepting her award. “It’s a hard time right now for us.” She continued:
I want to speak directly to the men. We need y’all. We need y’all to stand up. Stand up for us, stand up with us. If you’ve ever benefited from a woman making one of the toughest decisions of her life, which is to terminate a pregnancy, you need to be standing with us. This is not just a women’s issue. This is everybody’s issue. And we need your support more than ever, okay, fellas? Y’all got us? ‘Cause we got y’all. Y’all got us?
While a chorus of “Yeah”s emanated from the audience, Sullivan’s words didn’t seem to have much impact on the rest of the night’s speeches — though at this point, silence on the subject of bodily autonomy hardly comes as a surprise.