June 27, 2007 in Nation/World

BET Awards honor current, past performers

Sandy Cohen Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Diana Ross accepts the lifetime achievement award during the BET Awards on Tuesday. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

At a glance

Winners of 2007 BET Awards

Male R&B artist: Ne-Yo

Group: Gnarls Barkley

Gospel artist: Kirk Franklin

Hip-hop artist: T.I.

New artist: Jennifer Hudson

Collaboration: Ludacris/Mary J. Blige, “Runaway Love”

Video of the Year: Beyonce, “Irreplaceable”

Actor: Forest Whitaker

Actress: Jennifer Hudson

Male Athlete of the Year: LeBron James (basketball)

Female Athlete of the Year: Serena Williams (tennis)

BET J Cool Like That: Gerald Levert

Viewers’ choice: Birdman & Lil Wayne, “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy”

LOS ANGELES – Although the BET Awards doled out awards to some of entertainment’s most celebrated performers on Tuesday night, from Beyonce to Jennifer Hudson, it was the show’s tributes to living legends and recently departed giants that evoked the most emotion.

Lifetime achievement honoree Diana Ross urged younger performers to “keep it classy” and refrain from foul behavoir. A tearful Patti LaBelle joined an all-star tribute to R&B crooner Gerald Levert, who died last year. And fists pumped in the air as hip-hop group Public Enemy honored the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown, with a stirring rendition of one of his landmark hits, “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).”

“James Brown gets credit for laying the musical foundations of hip hop, but he set some attitudes for the culture as well. He was pro-black, pro-strong,” said civil rights activist and longtime Brown friend, the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“It’s time for us to pick up the legacy and teach another generation to wear their shoulders back and hold their heads high and be able to say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”

With that, Flavor Flav and Chuck D took the stage, launching into a medley of hits, including “Fight the Power” and “911 is a Joke.” They were joined by veteran bassist Bootsy Collins, wearing his trademark shades, for a cover of Brown’s “Say it Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).” Brown died last Christmas.

Black Entertainment Television’s annual awards show honors musicians, actors and athletes. The three-hour ceremony was laden with performances, more so than awards; some trophies were given off camera. Beyonce, who led all nominees with six, won two awards, as did her “Dreamgirls” co-star Jennifer Hudson, who snagged a best new artist and best actress award.

“I can’t believe I’m still winning awards!” she said as she won her first of the night.

Ross was feted with a multi-song tribute. Erykah Badu got it started with her cover of “Love Hangover.”

Others paying tribute to Ross included fellow Motown legend Stevie Wonder and R&B queen Chaka Khan, and her five children, including actors Tracee Ellis Ross and Evan Ross.

Don Cheadle, who won the humanitarian award, was the subject of a tribute that focused on his efforts to raise awareness about genocide in Darfur.

Citing humanitarians such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa and Gandhi, the Oscar-nominated star of “Hotel Rwanda” said he didn’t feel worthy of the award.

“I started to respectfully decline in deference to those doing it day to day,” he said. “As I accept … I hope one day to be deserving of it.”

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