Taraji P. Henson took a moment to be serious in her otherwise upbeat introduction to the BET Awards on Sunday night, delivering the first of three consecutive slams at the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last week.
She began light, joking to the crowd, “You look successful… expensive… you look like you can afford these gas prices,” she laughed, after coming onstage to Ikino’s song, “The Kong’s Affirmation.”
But after saying “Black men, we love you, we hear you,” she then shouted out show-opener Lizzo for her stellar performance of “About That Time” — and then for donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood (which she actually did in partnership with Live Nation).
“It’s about that time we step into our power… It’s about that time we talk about the fact that guns have more rights than a woman. It’s a sad day in America. A weapon that can take lives has more power than a woman who can gave life — IF she chooses to.”
The theme continued with the next presenter, as Janelle Monae wished the audience Happy Pride Day and shouted out the LGBTQ representation.
“I’d like to give a special, special shoutout to Black women, to Black queer artists, to Black nonbinary artists,” she said. “These artists making art on our own terms, owning our truths and expressing ourselves freely and unapologetically in a world that tries to control and police our bodies, my body, and our decisions, my decision.”
She then exclaimed, “Fuck you, Supreme Court,” holding up a prominent middle finger; the expletive was bleeped but her hand gesture was not blurred. “I know we are celebrating us right now, as we should — we absolutely deserve to celebrate especially now. We must celebrate our art by protecting our right and our truths.”
She then introduced the nominees for Best R&B Pop Artist — and the winner, Jazmine Sullivan, continued, by saying as part of her acceptance speech.
“As always, I do this for the women — for my sisters especially,”she said. “It’s a hard time right now for us, and 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 have 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,” she continued. :This is not just a woman’s issue. This is everybody’s issue, and we need your support more than ever — okay fellas? Y’all got us? Because we’ve got y’all.”
In the show’s first half hour, nearly every woman who took the stage commented on the issue: Best New Artist winner Latto said as part of her acceptance speech: “It’s about giving pro-choice… it’s about never giving in to a man policing my body.”
The BET Awards are live from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles. See the updated winners list here.