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Beyoncé pleads with Americans to ‘dismantle a racist and unequal system’ and ‘vote like your life depends on it’

Reiss Smith June 29, 2020
Beyoncé wearing a diamond choker and black bustier at the BET Awards 2020

Beyoncé accepted a humanitarian award at the BET Awards from Michelle Obama. (BET/Twitter)

Beyoncé used a BET Awards speech to urge Black Americans to vote in November’s elections, accepting a humanitarian award from former first lady Michelle Obama.

The artist was honoured for her charity and community work, and used her acceptance speech to call on viewers to “vote like our life depends on it”.

“I want to dedicate this award to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there inspiring me, marching and fighting for change,” she began.

“Your voices are being heard and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain. Now we have one more thing we need to do to walk in our true power, and that is to vote.

Beyoncé continued: “I’m encouraging you to continue to take action, continue to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system. We have to continue to do this together… because there are people banking on us staying at home during local elections and primaries happening in states across the country.

“We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does.”

Beyoncé was introduced at the BET Awards — virtually — by Michelle Obama, who paid tribute to “the queen”, “her generosity of spirit and her love for her community”.

“You can see it in everything she does, from her music that gives voice to Black joy and Black pain, to her activism that demands justice for Black lives,” said Obama.

The singer’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, and Tyler Perry were among those to detail the artist’s humanitarian efforts.

In recent months she has helped communities stricken by the pandemic, setting up free COVID-19 testing centres and making a $6 million donation (with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey) toward aid efforts.

The BET Awards also celebrated Beyoncé’s education initiatives, and her work helping the victims of the Flint, Michigan clean water crisis.

Beyoncé celebrates Blackness and demands justice for Breonna Taylor.

In recent weeks Beyoncé has made a number of interventions in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

At the start of June she paid tribute to Black Lives Matter protesters during a powerful commencement address at YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” virtual graduation ceremony, in which she discussed racism, sexism, masculinity and queerness.

She penned an open letter to the Kentucky attorney general calling for the police who killed Breonna Taylor while she was sleeping to be held accountable for their actions, imploring him to bring the 26-year-old justice.

On Juneteenth (June 19), she released her song “Black Parade”, a celebration of Black beauty, strength and power which benefited Black-owned businesses.

And on July 31 she will drop Black is King, a film “meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry” based on her album The Lion King: The Gift. It will stream on Disney Plus.

More: beyonce, Breonna Taylor, Michelle Obama

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