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Okyeame Kwame Speaks On BET Awards

Today’s global village means that the actions of a one country is felt on the other. ‘’If a butterfly in Antarctica decides not to flap its wings anymore, it reduces tides on the Pacific Ocean.’’ It appears the world today is singing in Unison and the interconnectivity between countries is felt in almost all spheres of the global economy. African musicians must therefore move from doing local collaborations to international collaborations in order to catch up with changing trends of the global village.

In focus, organizers of the Black Entertainment Awards (BET) in 2010 decided to include categories that serve to recognize African arts from the African continent and award the efforts of the artistes. The likes of Kojo Antwi from Ghana and P Square from Nigeria were but a few of the early nominees. Africans globally were caught in excitement for the initiative by the BET until recently, the nomination of Ghana’s Sakordie and Nigeria’s Wizkid sparked the controversies. It so happened that fans across the continent were glued to their DStv sets to catch glimpses of their representatives been awarded live. But this did not seem the reality as the African artistes were not shown receiving their awards live on stage. In their quest to unearth the real issues, journalists figured that the awards were presented to the African Artistes backstage. Africans who hated this took to social media and criticized the BET for what they deem as unfair treatment meted out to their representatives.

Four years down the lane, Ghana’s dancehall artiste, Stonebwoy a fortnight ago received his award for Best International Act: Africa. It again was reported that, his award presentation was done backstage. If so be the case, why are the African representatives awarded backstage? Is the BET not an award ceremony for blacks? Reggie Rockstone added his voice to the saga and was quoted as saying ‘’he wanted Sarkodie and Stonebwoy, both nominees of the just ended BET Awards to boycott the ceremony.’’ According to him, “when the nominees boycott the ceremony, they would get bigger publicity than how they are treated now.’’

Okyeame Kwame

Okyeame Kwame

But in all these years these award recipients have not made any comments. Lilian Blankson, Director of Programming and Production at BET International recently challenged them to come out of their shelves and comment on the brouhaha that is circulating. She took to twitter and wrote ‘’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 means the remaining 15 or 16 categories are not shown for public viewership and certainly other US artistes also fall within.

Lilian again wrote ‘’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.’’

Well, I have a few questions here:

Why do we criticize the BET when the awardees are not complaining?

Is the BET aware that some Africans are unhappy about this?

Are other similar US awardees also complaining?

Has the BET failed to communicate properly why the awards are given backstage as it is rumored?

Also, why can’t we organize our own international award ceremonies and have the western artistes on stage?

Where is the African International channel (like the BBC and CNN of the west) that tells the African story the African way?

Why do we allow the external media to tell our own stories?

What happened to the Union of National Radio and Television Organizations of Africa (URTNA)? Did it not collapse like our last hope Channel O?

What stops one of Africa’s oldest broadcasting corporations, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) (established 1954) from achieving greater feats? Was it not in existence before BET (founded in 1979)?

At this point, I couldn’t have agreed more with Marcus Garvey when he wrote ‘’Africa for the Africans, Like America for the Americans….’’ Let’s leave America for Americans.

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