In 2001, the BET Awards was established by the Black Entertainment Television network to celebrate African Americans and other minorities in music, acting, sports and other fields of entertainment.
It follows the usual annual awards routine with live broadcast and performances by artistes. The BET network has a huge following outside of the United States of America and this saw the introduction of International categories; for Africa and the UK to recognise the hard work and efforts of some international artistes who are not Americans.
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As I have stated above, the awards was originally instituted for Black Americans and not blacks in Africa. With that said, the new added categories are not top priority to the organisers and Americans for that matter. This means, they are not given the attention as the rest of the categories of the award scheme.
The two international categories are not presented during the main awards night. They are presented to the winners in a pre-recorded show and played during the main awards show.
One thing that needs to be corrected is the perception that those two awards are presented backstage. They are not. They are just given before the main show in virtually an empty room.
That has been the norm ever since the two International categories were created but in 2012 when Ghanaian rapper, Sarkodie, co-won the Best International Act for Africa with Nigerian’s starboy, Wizkid, most Ghanaians were disappointed and joined the various choruses to criticise the awards organisers.
Even though before Sarkodie was nominated and co-won the award, several other Ghanaians had tried their luck and failed. What amazes me is why Ghanaians became interested in the awards being presented backstage only after a Ghanaian won it. For all the years that it was won by non-Ghanaians, they were not given on the main stage.
This year, 2015 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards Artiste of the Year, Stonebwoy, born Livingstone Etse Satekla was nominated in the same category alongside his compatriot and former winner, Sarkodie. Also nominated were Wizkid, Yemi Alade, AKA, and Fally Ipupa.
On Sunday, June 28, 2015 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, Stonebwoy emerged winner in the International Act, Africa category as part of activities to mark the 15th anniversary of the awards.
His triumph meant, he became the second Ghanaian after Sarkodie and the first Dancehall act to win the award. Such a magnificent feat for Ghana and the Dancehall fraternity in Africa.
A welcoming news such as this needed to be celebrated but sadly, the celebrations has been marred and overshadowed by very needless and unnecessary controversies.
The controversy has to do with how and where the award was presented. And the people leading the controversies are the African artistes who were nominated but did not win.
How did the unnecessary controversies start? The African Act award was announced before the UK Act. UK based Ghanaian musician, Fuse ODG, shortly after his category was announced that he had lost to Stormzy took to Twitter to complain bitterly claiming the award was presented backstage even though he decided not to attend.
“Dear @BET, the reason why I didn’t come is because you give our awards backstage! You have no respect for our hard work and achievements”, he tweeted.
Fuse ODG by his own tweets left many unanswered questions. What is even mind boggling is the fact that, why didn’t he complain prior or immediately before the announcement of the winner for his category was made?
One may ask, didn’t Fuse ODG know of BET’s policy of presenting the awards for the two categories hours before the main event? Was he expecting something different or was he privy to something that the rest of the people didn’t know in respect to this year’s awards?
After Fuse ODG opened the floodgates, Nigeria artiste, Yemi Alade, also decided to add her voice to advocate for respect for African artistes on Twitter.
“By the way…@bet_intl AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY.!!! ..IT IS WRONG TO NOMINATE HUGE AFRICAN STARS AND PUBLICLY TRY TO HUMILIATE AFRICA.WHY ON EARTH IS THE AFRICAN CATEGORY OF THE AWARDS HELD HOURS BEFORE THE “MAIN EVENT? IF AFRICAN ARTISTS ARE NOT WORTHY IN YOUR SIGHT.”
“PLS BY ALL MEANS CANCEL,DELETE,OMMIT THE “BEST INTERNATIONAL ACT (AFRICA) CATEGORY OUT OF THIS GLORIFIED AWARD. THIS IS WRONG! !! WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.”
“Meanwhile… PLS NEXT TIME,CREDIBILITY OVER PADDYPADDY!! CREDIBILITY !!”.
Honestly, unless I’m proved wrong, I want to believe that, Yemi’s outbursts were purely because she didn’t win the award. Obviously, she cannot boldly tell the world that, she didn’t know this particular category is presented hours before the main show.
Referring to the awards as glorified meant, she is fully aware of the policies of the scheme. It makes her statement extremely needless and unnecessary to me.
Hypocrisy must stop and now
Other African artistes such as Wizkid, Dencia and others have added their voices and protested at the ‘hours before the main show’ presentation to African artistes. It’s the right call. It is very wrong but Africans must understand that, the show wasn’t originally made for them. They were included at a certain point. I believe that, at the right time or soon, things will change in terms of where and how the award is presented.
It’s about time African artistes stand up to what they believe in and stop being hypocritical. It’s about time they stopped complaining bitterly every year.
If they are not happy and can’t wait patiently for the day when they would be included in the main awards, they should be bold to boycott the awards and their name is taken off the list when nominated.
By Ebenezer Anangfio/Graphic Showbiz