2b68766eLast night, live at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, a room full of head-bobbing, consenting adults bounced to Drake and Lil Wayne’s back-to-back performances of the hit songs “Best I Ever Had” and “Every Girl.” I watched, underwhelmed. I wanted more “Michael” in what was supposed to be this award-show-turned-Michael-Jackson-tribute. I watched, ever puzzled by the Lil Wayne phenomena that has captivated the music industry. I watched, wondering when the set was going to end.

Then the little girls came onstage…literally the little girls. “Are those children?” I asked out loud, in disbelief. Then the camera panned the audience. Everyone was still head-bobbing as the little Black girls huddled around these superstars.

“Are those little girls on stage…for this song?!?!” I, still in disbelief, lost breath and forced myself to exhale. “Why are these little girls featured on this performance? Is somebody going to stop this?” Again, the show was live, though for a nano-second, I was hoping that a hunched-over stage manager would bust through from back stage to scoop up the children, rescuing them from harm’s way…from being associated from this song. But instead, what those girls witnessed from the stage was hundreds and hundreds of adults (mostly Black people) staring back at them, co-signing the performance. These girls, who all appeared to be pre-teens, were having their 15 minutes of glam on one of the biggest nights in televised Black entertainment history, with two of pop culture’s biggest stars at the moment, with millions of people watching. They must have been bubbling with girlish excitement, shimmering like princesses all night. Pure irony: one of them wore a red ballerina tutu for the special occasion. And we applauded them.

But did no one care that Lil Wayne’s song Every Girl is about grown men and their sexual escapades with women? Did the meaning and intent of the song matter to anyone, this song whose hook and other lyrics required a re-write in order to get air play? “I wish I could love every girl in the world.” That’s the radio-friendly version of “I wish I could f–k every girl in the world.” But Lil Wayne’s BET performance was the clean edit of the song. Perhaps he (and the show producers) thought that there was nothing wrong in featuring the children in the clean version. Perhaps we were supposed to see the whole bit as cute and innocent. Absolutely not. There’s no other way to cut it: in presenting little girls in a performance of a song that is about sex, group sex, and more sex, BET and Lil Wayne set the stage for child pornography. It doesn’t matter what version of the song was played, much like a man who batters women is still an abusive man, even if uses flowery phrases while battering.

In the song, Lil Wayne mentions superstar Miley Cyrus, but Cyrus gets a pass on this lyrical sex escapade because, as he acknowledges, she is a minor. Huh? Why, then, is he comfortable with featuring four minors, these four little Black girls, in the show? How deep exactly is this inability of some men to respect women, and how deep is Lil Wayne’s disregard for the safety of little girls?

I’m told that one of the girls is Lil Wayne’s daughter. That doesn’t matter. In fact that makes it worse. Last night we were reminded that there are few safe spaces for our little girls to be children; that some of us are willing to trade their innocence for a good head nod. BET and Lil Wayne are beneath low because, in effect, they have given premium assurance to these and other little girls that their best value, their shining moment, their gifts to display to the world, all lie within a context that says they are f**kable.

- – - – - – - -

The programming at BET has been heavily criticized by artists, concerned citizens, college students, parent groups, social justice organizations, media reform activists, and many others for over a decade now. Their programming seems hell bent on broadcasting the worst pathologies in the Black community.

Some have joined the anti-BET movement by simply tuning out. Others have been more pro-active. National letter-writing campaigns and other activities designed to shame and/or pressure the network into improving its programming have been in play for some time now. Boycotts have been called as well. Two years ago, for example, the network found itself in the line of fire as it planned to air the very controversial series “Hot Ghetto Mess.” Advertisers, such as State Farm Insurance and Home Depot, responded to pressure and requested that their ads be disassociated with the series (though, their ads could be placed in other programming slots). None of this has made a difference. In fact, it seems to have emboldened the network, for it is now expanding. In the fall, BET is due to launch another channel.

But millions of Black people are not offended by the network and welcome anything BET has to offer, no matter how much it continues to unravel the fabric of our community.

As a social entrepreneur and activist, my entire life/work has been dedicated to standing up for what’s right, especially within the culture of hip hop. When identifying what cancerous elements exist within the Black community, many fellow activists agree with Chuck D (of Public Enemy), and even Aaron McGruder (of The Boondocks), when they targeted BET as one of those elements. That said, I didn’t think that we would ever have to take the network to task for what amounts to child pornography.

But millions of Black people are not offended by the network and welcome anything BET has to offer, no matter how much it continues to unravel the fabric of our community. Imagine, if you will, BET as a human being and the viewers as the community. You would have to imagine BET as a drug dealer, with his swag on…perhaps outside standing atop a truck, the community crowded beneath him. Imagine him throwing nicely wrapped gifts into the crowed, or giving away turkeys at Thanksgiving. Or maybe it’s Mother’s Day and he buys dinner and teddy bears to all the single moms and grandmothers around the way. Despite his best efforts and despite the approval of his fans, he is still a drug dealer, pimping death to the masses.

Proverbs is full of sacred text that teaches us that there will always be fools amongst us. Some of them will be highly paid, protected, and given world-wide platforms to show off what they do best. And these fools (be they performers, corporate executives, or others), will have fans and loyal supporters, and a place to call home, like a BET.

But as long as there will be fools amongst us, there will also be wise ones – a small group of people concerned about the long term health and well being of the community. This small group will often go unheard and they will be outmatched. They will struggle over which problem to address first: the child pornographer, the batterer, the pimp, the prostitute, the thief, the slumlord, or the system that enables it all. They will get tired and their defense will pale in comparison to the almost crushing offense. And they will be betrayed from within. Historically and universally, this is what happens in the struggle for what is right. But eventually, with continued pressure, something will shift. A radical new thinking will emerge, and the fools will lose their stronghold.

The sure expectation of victory, however, can not be understated. It is a concrete ingredient in the struggle against the death that is being paraded in our community…as necessary as letter writing campaigns, economic boycotts, symbolic and actual protests, and other pressure-oriented activities. It is indeed possible to bring more life into our community.

© 2009 by April R. Silver. April R. Silver is a social entrepreneur, activist, and writer/editor. She is also founder of the communications agency AKILA WORKSONGS, Inc. Her first book is the critically acclaimed anthology “BE A FATHER TO YOUR CHILD: REAL TALK FROM BLACK MEN ON FAMILY, LOVE, AND FATHERHOOD.” Contact Info: [email protected] or www.aprilsilver.com.

  • Joi

    I’ve been DONE w/BET for a while now, but this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The network should be ashamed, but they probably aren’t considering that a lot of people my age (late 20s) practically don’t watch it anyway. Nothing on it network applies to me.

  • t

    That performance was tragic. Just to let yall know those girls also included Tiny’s daughter and their group omg girls.

  • http://syrupsandwiches.com Z. Kay

    I will be the first to raise me had and proclaim my fanhood for Drake & Wayne. Having said that, I am so disgusted with this performance. It was the only part of the awards show that I watched and I am glad. What in world would possess anyone to allow this? I remember the days when I used to sit and watch BET for hours, Video Soul, Teen Summit, etc. The question at this point is whether the programming choices are a result of what the audience wants or is the audience accepting what they are given.

  • http://www.whoisrafe.com Raf

    Between this and the Lousianna rendition of “Halle Berry”, I’m convinced we’ve collectively been set back oh about a good millenia…

  • Janell Necole

    Well it WAS a tribute to Michael…. too soon?

    I’m just sayin’.

  • http://whatabotuourdaughters.com Gem2001

    Yes, BET is all that and worse but folks won’t pick up the phone and call California Labor authorities who regulate “performances” of children or the FBI which regulates child exploitation. BET will stop when someone stops them. They only respond to outside stimuli.

  • you’re a retard

    are you retarded? thats his daughter and TI’s daughter

  • Deva

    OH THANK YOU APRIL, i thought i was the only one who caught that mess. when i was watching it, i sat there with my mouth open in disbelief. and i dont care who’s kids they are, the fact is those pre-teens should not be dancing and singing the words to those songs they were “performing”. the bad thing is, i actually thought lil wayne was ok, and i stopped watching BET prior to watching the awards. i guess i will go back to pretending like that channel doesnt exist anymore.

  • Jamie

    I agree that it was totally inappropriate behavoir, but i think I should point out that the ‘Miley Cyrus’ line is by Mack Maine and not Lil’ Wayne on the recorded version of ‘Every Girl’.

    I don’t know if that makes it better or worse!

  • Haj

    These guys are f@*king brilliant. You’ve got to be kidding me.

  • Henry

    its only music…..and might i add its music from our gemeration. who cares if the “dirty” version of the song is explicit. the clean version is meant for those who prefer it….its rewriten for that purpose. like nelly said recently, just because you people dont like it doesnt make it gabage or disqualify it as hip hop. Thats the way they want to express themselves. im pretty sure all of you “older” people lisened to songs that your parents or elders didnt aprove of. but did that stop yall. NO. so…..find a different way to express yall negative energy and leave this generation alone. I STAND BY LIL WAYNE AND DRAKE OR ANYOTHER ARTIST THAT WRITES A SONG THAT YOU PEOPLE DONT LIKE. because when it all boils down to it….you cant stop it, the more you hate it the more popular it gets.

  • http://www.ck-mag.com Cheryl

    Ppl have forgotten about the realness and become brainwashed by the wackness! To many followers and not enough leaders. Lil Wayne is wack as h3ll. Half the reason he is the ish is because marketing has made viewers believe he is the ish. Groupthink. BET is a sell out; literally. That performance was wrong on soooo many levels yo. And oh yeah, T.I had to be in prison in order for his daugher to have been on stage during that performance. I can’t see him being ok with that.

  • Donna

    Henry everything has it’s limits. I had enough brain as a youth to know when something was degrading to me and chose not to listen to it, although the list of what I will not listen to is larger as an adult.

  • DLS77

    @Henry- Did you read this piece in its entirety or even a part of it at all? Because if you did, you would have realized that the author is not talking about the merits of the song. Instead, she is focusing on how INAPPROPRIATE it is to have young girls on a stage when you’re talking about wanting to “eff” every girl in the world!

  • Carol

    I very seldom watch BET but I thought this one would have been special considering the death of MJ. The statement “this song whose hook and other lyrics required a re-write in order to get air play?” Did it really? I don’t listen nor can I even understand what Lil Wayne be saying but all the bleeping disturbed me to the point that I changed the channel. I really dont understand why a program such as BET would even have this artist slotted to appear knowing the type of lyrics he uses.

  • SinnerBlack

    Stop buying the Bullshit, the music, the messages, the videos, all of it, BOYCOTT BET, shut’em down.

  • Nikki

    I’m tired of the MJJ remarks by ppl! The man was never convicted of any wrongdoing! I swear that most of the people that tend to make biased remarks such as the one stated above are usually victims of abuse unwilling to believe that people can be innocent…get with the facts.

    Anyway, Lil’ Wayne and Drake should of been cut from the show. They were a complete embarrassment to me as a black person. It’s a tribute showcase…edit your lyrics!!! No one is purchasing tickets to see you specifically, so censor yourself for the public. Then, they had the nerve to say R.I.P. to MJ as if Michael had anything to do with the monstrosity they put forth on that stage. I don’t watch BET, but the audience for this show was wider than the normal demographics being that it was SUPPOSED to be a tribute showcase that was advertised on almost every major news channel. What a disgrace! I definitely don’t get their appeal and I’m only 20-years-old.

  • http://www.innyvinny.com Alicia

    That show was a ramshackle, hot mess. I’ve read Drake’s response to questions asking why that was done, and while I felt the explanation was sufficient, the fact that it was allowed shows the extent to which poor judgement and BET are affiliated.

    I didn’t want to watch the award show and never will again.

  • Adanna

    Understand this lil wayne sang the CLEAN version of the song, “i wish i could love every girl in the world” which isn’t negative at all,clearly this world needs ALOT of love especially young black feamles. I mean his daughter was in the performance. How bad can the song (clean version) really be.Now dont get me wrong i agree that BET has had alot of changes and some not for the good of the network,yet i still wouldn’t go so far as to boycott it. It is a station named after my people and i know that we have enough pride not to shame its name so i don’t see the big issue about the performance.

  • biihik

    Yall just being haters there was nothing bad meant nby this they were just tryna let the girls hav som fun

  • Enlighten Wit

    I think it was a subconscience decision. Truly, as parents – Lil wayne, Toya, Tiny, and the parents of the remaining children were not thinking of the image that could be portrayed by the girls’ joining them on stage for THAT particular song. It was more of a marketing strategy to promote the children’s group(as with Tiny’s daughter being shown in the studio on her new show with Toya). I don’t think it was their intention to associate the children to the song. They just weren’t thinking; it was ignorance. The song was very inappropriatto for the girls to be featured on it. I think they let them listen to Lil Wayne’s music and see nothing wrong with treating them maturely, like their friends moreso than kids. I disagree with that. I was a teen parent like Toya, Lil Wayne, and Tiny – but I was concerned about making that mistake and made it a point to try to be more mature than my years for my child. It may have been hard for them, growing up with their kids; while that doesn’t exscuse it, it may be a factor to why they weren’t mindful in this case. I just hope they realize their mistake and learn/grow from it.

  • http://Clutch Liz

    For every person who is “outraged” at the Drake/Wayne performance, who will speak to Drake and Wayne letting them understand why it was “Kiddie Porn”. Nobody, know why? Because Wayne is a MILLIONAIRE

  • http://Clutch Liz

    AND no one is gonna bite the hand that’s feeding them. Yeah this generation is on a fast track to hell, but so are all the adults that are allowing them. We all know education combats ignorance, but nobody is taking time to them the lessons that will ultimately change their mindset. It’s gonna take more than seeing President Obama in office, they need to understand the struggle that got him there. Not Pres. Obama’s struggle, the blacks that got beaten and murdered on college steps so that we can attend now struggle, all the black parents and students that endured daily physical abuse so they could be intergrated into white school struggles, and how in the height of racism, Black People like Garrett A. Morgan was inventing the Gas Mask, and exploring the world like Estaban Dorantes, and curing children like Susan McKinney Steward. They need to know that they come from more than slaves and they are worth more than the industry is willing to pay for some trumpt up talent. They have to know that they really do come from Royalty, slavery wasn’t where we come from, it was how we were treated for a season. We throw all the cliche’s around but put no action behind them. The youth won’t know where they are going if they don’t know where they have been… who’s willing to show them????

  • http://blog.brooklynposh.com bposh

    I’m appalled that this is even a discussion..

    The audacity to blame a network for featuring what’s playing on OUR RADIOS, what OUR kids, OUR people, are listening to.. And the worst part about it is that OUR people made it..

    you are blatantly pointing the blame game in the wrong direction.

    AND FOR every 10 people complaining about it there’s another 20 PEOPLE NOT DOING SHIT about it. so please.

    let’s save the self righteousness for someone who will actually make a substantial difference..

  • E

    It really doesnt matter if it was the rappers daughter’s or not: I damn sure wouldnt allow my daughter to dance to a sexualize song: Best I Ever Had

    Though artist dont mine if there children heard or enjoy the music their parents make, doesnt make it right, their the same parents asking what went wrong with their children and why the children are so FAST in growing up……

  • misscrock

    Everyone is just Hatin on Bet, there was nothing wrong with lil wyane in the girls on stage, so what if they danced to that song, what about the other on the radio in t.v and media this world is f cked up already just from what they put on t.v gay stuff and all.

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