The annual Black Entertainment Awards, which took place Sunday night in Los Angeles, changed its format to honour the late pop icon Michael Jackson. Actor Jamie Foxx was among those delivering speeches.
AFP - An annual awards show for black entertainers became a star-studded memorial to Michael Jackson here Sunday as the African-American A-list turned out in force to salute the King of Pop.
Singers, actors, sports stars and television personalities crowded into Los Angeles's famous Shrine Auditorium for the Black Entertainment Awards, which had been hastily retooled as a night to celebrate Jackson.
Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx set the tone for proceedings by appearing in a variety of Jackson's signature costumes and even moonwalking across the stage at one point. "Is there any question who was the best?" Foxx asked the crowd.
Basketball star Lebron James, who won the award for best male athlete, paid tribute to the Jackson family as he collected his award.
"I want to say to all of the Jackson family. This night is unbelievable because of you guys. What you did for us and the whole world is unbelievable," James said.
Meanwhile rapper Lil Wayne told the audience: "We all know none of us in this room wouldn't be here without Michael Jackson."
Earlier, stars arriving on the red carpet told reporters personal stories about Jackson, saying his music had been instrumental in breaking down racial barriers.
"We miss him and we love him and we just feel devastated," said singer Alicia Keys, urging people to remember Jackson in a "respectful, positive way."
Asked how Jackson had influenced her, Keys replied: "In every way. How could he not influence us to break the barrier and to think bigger, and to try new things and to break the rules.
"Tonight I think is a true memorial for him. It's really about honoring him this evening."
BET announced shortly after Jackson's death that the annual awards ceremony would be tweaked to serve as an unofficial memorial for the singer and a celebration of his life.
"Michael Jackson's the biggest thing that's happened to music in our lifetime. When we heard he had passed away we knew we had to revamp this whole show and make it special just for him," said BET Chairwoman and CEO Debra Lee.
"It's going to be a celebration tonight, it's going to be a little sad, but it's going to be a celebration," Lee said.
Attendees said they remained in shock over Jackson's sudden and unexpected death last week at the age of 50.
Singer Chaka Khan held back tears as she spoke to reporters.
"I haven't gotten to the point where I can break down yet because I just don't believe it," she said. "I have to believe that energy lives on and he's still with us in some amazing way."
Several stars hailed Jackson's role in breaking down racial barriers and giving African-Americans a hero to idolize.
"He's one of the reasons why Barack Obama's president," said hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs. "He started the change in the world about how African-Americans are perceived."
Actress Taraji P. Henson, the Oscar-nominated star of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," echoed Combs's words.
"That's exactly what we're doing -- celebrating his life and that's what this night is about," Henson said.
"He's the biggest star in America -- in the world. I feel like he parted a gap so that Obama could be the president. His rise to fame was the beginning of 'Oh, black people are okay.'"
Date created : 2009-06-29