Over the last week, Americans across the country have witnessed and participated in an unprecedented outpouring of rage and protest against police brutality. This comes following the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., on March 13; Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. on Feb. 23; Tony McDade in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27; and, most recently, David McAtee, who was killed in Louisville protests on June 1.
As part of this broad demand for change, Black Entertainment Television is shaking up its programming in an effort to promote meaningful dialogue and provide strategies to address systemic racism and violence against Black people in the United States.
BET will air a series of specials throughout the month featuring prominent Black leaders, celebrities, journalists, academics, activists and artists. The first installment, Justice Now: A BET News Special, will kick off the series tonight at 8 p.m. E.T./P.T. Programming will reflect on the killing of George Floyd, the protests that have ensued and the underlying systemic racism that led to it. More programming will follow, including a virtual town hall, a Juneteenth presidential forum and numerous docuseries on police brutality and systemic racism.
Hosted by Marc Lamont Hill, tonight’s special will include dialogue from leading Black voices, including George Floyd’s family; daughter of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in New York on Dec. 30, 2017, Emerald Garner; former NBA player Stephen Jackson; New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker; singer John Legend; rapper TI; journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones; activist Tamika Mallory; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president Derrick Johnson; Princeton University professor Eddie Glaude; The LBJ School of Public Affairs professor Peniel E. Joseph; and youth activists Michael McDowell and Luis Hernandez.
The network also scheduled 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence to honor George Floyd, who was suffocated by a white police officer that kneeled on his neck for that amount of time, and other victims of racism and injustice.
“We stand in steadfast solidarity with George Floyd’s family, the many victims of racist brutality and those who are using their voices and platforms to challenge it,” said BET president Scott Mills in a statement. “There are no easy solutions for these systemic issues of racism, injustice and trauma. BET is leveraging every platform and resource at our disposal to support and inform our community and help identify strategies and viable solutions in this time of crisis.”
Later this week, BET will follow up with a virtual telecast called Justice Now: A BET Town Hall. The goal of the program will be to air the Black community’s grief, fear, anger and hope and hear from a panel of experts on what can be done to create sustainable change.
On Juneteenth, which commemorates slaves’ emancipation in Texas that occurred on June 19, 1865, BET is planning to host a presidential forum. The network has sent out invitations to both President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, with hope of providing the Black community with an opportunity to hear from the candidates on institutional racism and the disparities it has created in housing, health, income and the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. Trump and Biden would also be asked about specific plans to move the country forward in those areas.
“Empowering Black Americans is core to our mission,” said Mills. “We are committed to using our unique ability to mobilize our powerful, cross-sector coalition of partners to help drive critical outcomes and amplify leading voices in the Black community.”