The BET Awards are about more than hip-hop music and culture. They are a celebration of Black excellence that runs the gamut from music, film, and television to activism. The network — which was founded by a Black couple to celebrate Black culture; it’s the definition of "for us by us" — carves out time each year to put some respect on the names of the people giving back and striving to be the change that they want to see in the world. Each year, the award show typically gives out a Humanitarian Award that honors the philanthropic contributions of a celebrity who goes beyond their duty as an entertainer to do something that really matters. Past honorees have included Chance the Rapper, Alicia Keys, Jesse Williams, and Dwayne Wade, just to name a few. But this year, BET has flipped the script with its humanitarian honor, proving that they really are for the culture.
Instead of singling out one specific influencer to give the award to, this year the BET Awards will honor six people. None of them are celebrities, but they have definitely left their mark on our culture over the past year. Instead of ‘recipient of the Humanitarian award,’ these five people are being heralded as Humanitarian Heroes for their acts of bravery, resilience, and resistance. The 2018 heroes are James Shawn Jr., Anthony Borges, Mamoudou Gassama, Naomi Wadler (who is also, disappointingly, the only female honoree in the group), Justin Blackman, and Shaun King.