BET, you have made your billions of dollars being basic. In the process, you have turned millions of black millennials all the way off with your programming. Much like the internet, I am unforgiving and cannot refrain from calling you out. Call me petty. Whatever, that is fine. I am tired of hearing, “It’s all we got!” Thanks to YouTube, Black Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and various blogs, you are not the only source for black entertainment and are no longer the primary. Black millennials are proud to be woke AF and hella sophistiratchet. Show our complexity on your network. Black is not a monolith. Use your platform for more than the same 10 music videos and Tyler Perry marathons.
If BET was really about shit, it would…
1) Take on the Melissa Harris-Perry show. It’s the best way to increase black nerd representation on BET. Fix it, O.G. Bobby Johnson. Fix it.
2) Stop running commercials for predatory lending companies with high interest rates. If you cared about black people you wouldn’t expose us to these harmful practices out to ruin our Trans Union and our Equifax. How long you gone let them take over half of our structure settlements?
3) Have more shows promoting other forms of black music (jazz, reggae, conscious hip-hop, black experimental musicians, etc). There are all-black orchestras! You used to show them love. What happened?
4) Bring back How I’m Living. MTV Cribs only focused on lavish outrageous celebratory homes — many of them white. I enjoyed watching quaint or serene living spaces of less famous but equally as influential homes of various black celebrities.
5) Do more interviews and documentaries on important black figures. Not rockumentaries made for drama. Interview Bree Newsome. Interview the Ta-Nehisi Coates. Use your platform to inform! Even Netflix knows there are black people watching Freakonomics, Zeitgeist, An Inconvenient Truth and Food Inc. as often as they are watching Friday, Friday After Next, and catching up on Scandal. Documentaries are lit!
6) Hire more knowledgeable show hosts. We still miss Free and AJ. What up, Tigga? What up, Joe Cleezy?! It seems like light skin and cute are your only criteria for casting. [Cough, cough.]
7) Do more to promote HBCUs. College Hill and band competitions are not enough. Howard is producing doctors. Hampton grads are changing business. HBCU alums are creating apps and changing the world. Black Entertainment Television should break these stories!
8) Provide diverse talks about sex other than “Rap It Up.” Asexuality. Agency over one’s body. Rape and consent. There are so many topics within sexual health. You took away Midnight Love for fuck sake! At least educate people on how to fuck…safely and responsibly.
9) Showcase black entrepreneurship at all levels (nonprofits, small, enterprise). Promote conferences and share tips. sK, uplift for a change. Show new hustles.
10) Launch mentorship programs to grant access, promotion and training to women in film. That includes diverse female actresses (dark-skinned ones, fat ones, queer ones, atheist ones), commentators, screenwriters and directors. How about black women-only calls for submission? We already know black women run Hollywood.
11) Do more to educate the public on abuse. Not just physical. Not just intimate partner. But on toxic family members, coworkers. Teach people the signs. Teach people the options. Teach people.
12) Side with black women and refuse to feature anything related to Bill Cosby, R. Kelly and the other black men who have abused black women. Are you for black men or black people?
13) Give us more dialogue and televised town hall forums. Black youth have a lot to say. So do our elders. Are you making use of your platform to bridge generational, gender, and economic gaps?
14) Have producer showcases. You focus on heavily auto-tuned performers and not the genius behind the beat, the dance or the movie. That’s the wrong answer. Inspire content producers not users.
15) Spotlight poetry. Black people write poems. Great poems. Show that shit! Take advantage of the end of Def Poetry Jam. Fill the gap.
16) Feature art. Black people just slay. We killing the art game and y’all ain’t supporting black painters, sculptors, photographers, museum curators, fashion designers. WTF, BET? WTF?
17) Spread black thought. The power of the black pen is at an all time high. All these books and all these articles and y’all ain’t promoting them. Guess I’m gonna die on the lookout for the BET Book Club!
18) Run more contests. We can’t even win shit from your cheap ass network. Black radio stations out here paying rent and providing free concert tickets and shit. Did you know 10 out of 10 black people love $Free.99?
19) Say no to appropriation. Who let Iggy make a countdown? Fire them immediately. Are you down for the culture or nah?
20) Show less Tyler Perry. All his movies, plays and show have a common theme for black women. We get it, already. Go to church. Be faithful to Jesus and your family (even if they are toxic). Poorly timed offensive jokes and a “good black man” who will save you from AIDS, poverty and abuse. I’m a proud queer black woman exploring faith. I ain’t waiting for no man. I can live a healthy, meaningful, profitable, productive life with or without the traditional black church. And I know mad straight black women faithful to god and church and still ain’t find a “good black man.” I know some who divorced the “good black man” because his jokes are lame, he is too controlling and his pipe game trash. But that’s none of my business.
21) Make new award shows. You can award black people for anything, I swear! Like a Social Justice Award Show honoring these black warriors planning, organizing and putting their life on the line. Or a Black Blog Award Show. Come correct and come original. I believe in you, BET. Your magic is real!
P.S. We <3 Mary Jane, tho. Keep the Life Time Achievement Award performances and cyphers lit!
Davelle Barnes aka Ms Dada Esque is a writer/recording artist from York, Pennsylvania. The Temple University Film student has participated in the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) and 1Hood Media Academy. Her poetry appears in “After Ferguson, In Solidarity and Steer Queer Redemption.” Scripts have been submitted. Album on the way. Follow her on Twitter @DadaEsque.