Jun 19, 2019

By Sesali Bowen
Both platforms speak to the power of community and the Black experience.

Black Twitter is an equal opportunity conversation. It’s a table with a seat for everyone. Black nerds, Black veterans, Black parents, Black atheists, and Black politicos sit amongst Black conspiracy theorists, Black entrepreneurs, and Black artists. Like any proper cookout, the opinions are loud and strongly held, but for every nay there’s a yay.

As such, Black Twitter doesn’t play judge and jury over Black culture, it documents what exists and underscores the things that matter to the Black community the most. So it should come as no surprise that on BET’s biggest night of the year—the BET Awards—Black Twitter comes alive to tell our story in a way that only we can. The two platforms are bedfellows, but there’s nothing strange about that.

In some ways, BET was Black Twitter before there was ever a bird-inspired website for people to join. From music and politics to art and lifestyle, the network has been aggregating the stories and history of people all over the Black diaspora over the course of its 40-year history. BET has built the trust of Black folks as a hub for mainstream Black culture by doing its best to let Black people spit their own truth—fighting against a tide of erasure, vilification, tokenization, and caricaturization at other media outlets.

"The two platforms are bedfellows, but there’s nothing strange about that."

Now, thanks to Twitter, the Black community gets to fine tune its own image, even the one crafted by BET. We use the platform to champion the initiatives and programming we love—like The New Edition Story that struck gold and made BET the most social network on television during its entire three-night run. (And we hold nothing back with scathing critiques of the network’s efforts that we don’t appreciate.)

In some ways, the BET Awards offer a yearly recap of our greatest moments and create an opportunity to uplift Black excellence in entertainment, sports, and activism. For nearly two decades it has been a coming together of our greatest minds and talents; a reminder that there is a space for us to be celebrated in our highest forms.

And it is on BET Awards night that Black Twitter really shines. According to Nielsen Social, the 2018 BET Awards generated 154K tweets. In just five minutes, as R&B singer H.E.R. effortlessly belted out renditions of “Focus” and “Best Part,” nearly 40K tweets about the event blasted into the Twittersphere. Nearly 50K people commented on Nicki Minaj’s performance, alone, before everything was said and done.

In an entertainment landscape where networks are throwing money behind on-demand content that doesn’t require viewers to be in any one place at one time, this kind of mass engagement is a huge feat. It speaks to the power of community and unification as centerpieces of the Black experience, and it underscores how important Black culture is to people around the world.

Just as important, though, is how this event shines a light on the almost gravitational symbiosis between BET and Black Twitter. In partnership, they offer a constant ebb and flow, exchanging ideas and holding one another accountable. Together, they can decide who and what will cause waves, while the rest of the world merely rides them. They can effect change, leaving the audience to crash into shores that are transformed. Black Twitter and the BET Awards are where we document our experiences, tweet-by-tweet, and celebrate our achievements, moment-by-moment.

When the red carpet is rolled out, and the paparazzi line up to get their winning shot on the night of the BET Awards, these two mediums step out hand in hand for their date night, unafraid to let the whole world see what they’re made of: us.

Sesali Bowen is Senior Entertainment Editor at NYLON.

Related Articles