Usher helped bring a bit of R&B sensuality to the 2020 BET Awards – and he had some help. Summer Walker joined him for a performance of ‘Session 32, ‘Come Thru,’ and ‘You Make Me Wanna’
Though the 2020 BET Awards was a showcase of Black solidarity following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain, and more, the June 28 show was also a celebration of Black culture. For Usher and Summer Walker, it was a chance to unite and raise their voices through an epic collaboration. At the start of their joint-performance, Summer, 24, began performing her song, “Session 32.” It turned into “Come Thru,” her song with Usher, 41, which then turned into a performance of his song, “You Make Me Wanna.” It was, in a word, amazing.
Hours ahead of his performance, Usher took a moment to reflect on the major changes going on around him. “I think change starts with you,” he captioned an Instagram photo. In the pic, Usher knelt among a group of “protesters,” each laid face-down with their hands behind their backs, like they were being arrested. “With each individual, it’s how you feel about it, whether you choose to make yourself uncomfortable, to be able to help the progress of equality in America.”
Recently, Usher penned an op-ed in The Washington Post calling for Juneteenth (June 19) to be adopted as a holiday on the federal level. “Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America. But it can remind us of our journey toward freedom and the work America still has to do. … My heart is shattered by the ongoing injustices in this country, incited by its long history of racism that has led to deadly outcomes for too many of our people. This country must change. And it must change quickly.”
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when Union army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure that all the enslaved people be freed. Though Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered two months earlier in Virginia (and President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the order which freed slaves in Confederate states, in 1863), the news hadn’t reached the rural parts of Texas. Juneteenth is considered “the end of slavery,” but the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t apply to slaves in Union states. The real end came on Dec. 6, 1865, with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (though, the practice of “slave labor” is still legal as “a punishment for a crime,” which has caused many to consider the American prison system the new form of slavery.)
Usher is a four-time BET Award winner. He won his first in 2002, taking home Best Male R&B Artist. He won the award again in 2004, as well as Viewer’s Choice for “Yeah,” his song with Ludacris and Lil Jon. He won his third Best Male R&B Artist in 2005. Since then, he’s received eleven nominations, but no wins.