“That’s What American Music Is All About” – Obama, BET Host Celebrity-Fueled White House Celebration

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

BET loves President Obama. It’s not hard to see why. For eight years, the president has worked deliberately to help those who had long been overlooked, overseeing the legalization of same-sex marriage, overall economic expansion, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and more.

To emphasize the point, the net recently put together this list of seven things they most appreciate about the soon-to-be-former president’s work:

The president has taken time to speak directly to BET viewers, most memorably in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown and other unarmed black men by police across the country, when he sat down with BET News’ Jeff Johnson to discuss the importance of peaceful protest to the health and evolution of our nation. Click the image below to watch the full interview:


As much as Obama has driven change in national policy and added gravity to essential conversations on race and justice, he has also committed considerable energy to emphasizing the importance that sports and the arts play in American culture. Never has his dedication to the musical arts been more apparent than with BET’s farewell flourish to the president, BET Presents Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration, which will air on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. ET.

The event, which the network hosted at the White House in October, features performances by Usher, Common, Janelle Monae, Leslie Odom Jr., The Roots, De La Soul, Jill Scott, Yolanda Adams, Bell Biv DeVoe, Michelle Williams and Kiki Sheard. Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Bradley Cooper and Jesse Williams attended, reminiscing about Obama’s legacy.

Obama, whose reputation for comedic timing is legendary, seized a moment to re-dub the event “Barack Obama’s Block Party”:

Obama’s Block Party from Viacom on Vimeo.

This is one of a series of musical evenings the Obamas have hosted over their eight years in the White House, which have featured performers as diverse as Bob Dylan and Jennifer Hudson, carrying on a tradition of performance that stretches back to the administration of John Adams in 1801. Obama underscored the importance of elevating the country’s rich musical heritage to such a prominent stage in the nation’s capital.

“It makes sense because this is the people’s house, and it ought to reflect the amazing diversity, and the imagination, and the incredible ingenuity that defines the American people,” Obama said on stage before the performances lit up. “And while much of the music that you will hear this evening – gospel, R&B, rap – is rooted in the African American experience, it’s not just black music – this is an essential part of the American experience. It’s a mirror to who we are, and a reminder of who we can be. That’s what American music is all about.”

Watch his full remarks here, along with a performance by Jill Scott:

“This is one of the perks of the job that I will miss most, along with Air Force 1, and Marine 1. When you can just call up Usher and say, ‘come on over to our house and sing with us.’”

It looks as though the Obamas are taking full advantage of this perk their last few months in office. Watch them dancing at the end:

Dave Chappelle, who also attended the event, gave it a huge shout out on Saturday Night Live over the weekend. He reflected on the fact that, for more than a century, black people were not welcome in the White House, recalling stories of Abraham Lincoln having to escort Frederick Douglas past security and president Theodore Roosevelt dealing with media fallout from inviting a black visitor in.

“I thought about that, and I looked at that room, and I saw all those black faces and Bradley [Cooper], and I saw how happy everybody was, these people who had been historically disenfranchised, and it made me feel hopeful,” Chapelle said. “And it made me feel proud to be an American, and it made me very happy about the prospects of our country. And so, in that spirit, I’m wishing Donald Trump luck, and I’m gonna give him a chance, and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one too.”

Watch his remarks on SNL. Zoom to approximately 7:45 to watch Chappelle’s full comments on Obama and the BET special (though the whole thing is worth a watch):

It is clear watching the president dance and joke and laugh with his guests that he is enjoying his last days in office. And while it is his policy decisions that often fill headlines, events such as BET Presents Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration allow us to reflect on the incredible cultural contributions the 44th president has made.

They’re worthy of a mic drop. Can we get one more, Mr. President?



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