A representative of Black Entertainment Television (BET) has spoken out in response to recent accusations of disrespect and discrimination against African artists at the station’s annual BET Awards, held recently in Los Angeles, USA.
Lilian N. Blankson, BET's Rights & Research Administrator for Business & Legal Affairs, sent out a string of tweets recently to say that things may get better if African artists concentrated on pushing to get their music on international platforms and American radio stations, rather than criticizing the organisers of the awards, who she claims have nothing to lose if they decide to drop the Best International Act (Africa) category. She also denied that the category winner is pre-recorded and presented backstage, as was reported in the media.
Blankson blamed past African winners of that category, including Sarkodie, Wizkid, Davido, 2Face and D'Banj, for not telling Africa the true story of what happens at the awards. She urged them to speak up and paint the right picture to Africa. This year's award was one by Ghanaian artist Stonebwoy.
Blankson is a reliable authority on the subject, having been in charge of producing special productions such as BET’s 25th Anniversary, The BET Awards Show, Celebration of Gospel, Rip The Runway, Comedy Awards, Walk of Fame, Spring Bling, and the Hip-Hop Awards for the BET network. She also produced and directed the first African Cypher on BET, which featured Sarkodie, and also helped in the execution of the BET Awards’ International Act category.
Her recent tweets on the controversy read as follows:
- “BET will always signify Black Star Power… Africa, if we want to be featured prominently, we need to know the facts and be very practical."
- “First of all, tell the truth and stop tweeting lies and mistruths. There has never been a backstage presentation of any award. Pre recorded."
- “We need to work hard and get our music on the radio here in the US. How do people respect your brand when you are not on the radio?"
- “Make your music more internationally appealing… Think of ways to get all audiences invested. Oliver Twist is a great example - universal story."
- “Folks worked so so hard to provide a platform for Africa on the network. We won’t get there overnight. And misinformation won’t help."
- “BET domestic does not and has never aired African music so to have a category is a major deal. Let’s prove and show them our worth not anger."
- “The artists who have been honored – why haven’t you cleared the air and told the truth about what happened! Why the silence?"
- “Out of 19 categories, only 4 or 5 make air. This is standard in award shows. If the US artists are not outraged and complaining, why are we?"
- “Performances sell awards shows and make ratings, not the categories. Let’s step up our game and get our music so big they can no longer ignore it."
- “If you choose to fly down and watch the show and not do press, who exactly do you think is affected or missing out? Think about it."
- “Let’s try and keep our category and know the facts. It does nothing to the network to take it away – but it sends us back several steps."
- “Finally, let’s be a little humble. No one owes us anything. Like everything else, we have to work our way to the top so we can stay there."
- “Nothing has ever come easy to us Africans. But anything worth having will not be a cake walk. Started from the bottom, but we here.”
So far public responses to Blankson’s tweets have been mixed. With some African artists and music fans called for a boycott of the event, let’s wait and see how things unfold in the build-up to next year’s event...