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Usher BET Awards Speech Reflects on Family, Fatherhood & Forgiveness

Usher BET Awards Speech Reflects on Family, Fatherhood & Forgiveness

Usher was honored with the lifetime achievement award Sunday night at the 2024 BET Awards with an all-star tribute performance, followed by a speech heavy on self-reflection that emphasized forgiveness and fatherhood.

Legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis came out onstage to present the tribute, which started with a video showing a montage of his career, which began in his early teens and included an energetic performance at the Super Bowl earlier this year. The video featured praise from the likes of Kevin Hart, Toni Braxton, L.A. Reid, Jermaine Dupri, Janelle Monáe and Jennifer Hudson.

Following the video, Childish Gambino — the alter ego of Donald Glover — kicked off a performance tribute with a slowed-down rendition of “U Don’t Have to Call.” Keke Palmer then joined him onstage as the song picked up the tempo. Palmer then segued into “You Make Me Wanna…”

Summer Walker followed Palmer, performing “Good Good,” which she is featured on alongside Usher and 21 Savage. Coco Jones then gave her rendition of “There Goes My Baby,” getting up close and personal with many in the audience, including Usher himself.

Marsha Ambrosius sang “Confessions,” Chlöe hit the stage with “Good Kisser,” Tinashe covered “Nice & Slow,” Teyana Taylor and Victoria Monét performed a risque version of “Bad Girl,” and Latto brought the energy for “Yeah!”

During the tribute, the cameras frequently cut to Usher, who was seen smiling and clapping along, and appeared to be enjoying each of the performances.

After the performance, Jam and Lewis brought out L.A. Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who spoke about how they blew him away at his first audition at age 14. 

Usher then took the stage, wearing sunglasses, a white jacket and jeans, where he appeared to be overcome with emotion before giving his remarks.

“Getting here has definitely not been easy, but it has been worth it,” he said, before noting that “I like to talk and I have a way with words” and hadn’t written prepared remarks because he “wanted this to be present, in this moment” (his speech ran for nearly 15 minutes).

“This life achievement award, I don’t know, man, is it too early to receive it?” he quipped. “‘Cause I’m still runnin’ and gunnin’ like I did when I was 8 years old.”

Meanwhile, a good portion of Usher’s speech was bleeped out, presumably due to language, but much of what could be heard found Usher reflecting on his family and being a dad.

He talked about his father — Usher Raymond III — leaving his family when he was a baby. “I was trying to make sense of this name a man gave me that didn’t stick around because he didn’t love me,” he said, taking off his glasses so the audience could really see his expression. “You have to have a forgiving heart to understand the true pitfalls and hardships of a Black man in America. and my father, he was a product of that.” He urged other fathers to be present in their own kids’ lives. “This is the year of the father. Stand up for your daughters and sons and lead. They say success has a million fathers,” he said.

He also addressed his ex-wife, Tameka Foster. “I’m trying, Tameka,” he said, pointing to the meaning behind his song “Good Good” and noting he was “turning a new leaf.” He mention as role models other former couples who get along for the sake of the kids, including Swizz Beatz and his ex-wife and current wife, Alicia Keys.

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He also spoke more about forgiveness. “We’ve got to be willing to forgive. We’ve got to be willing to be open,” he said. “I’m telling you, you’re standing before a man who had to forgive a man who never showed up ever. And look what I made with it. Look what I was able to ‘usher’ in. But that’s what’s real. That’s what makes us human. That’s what makes us women and men.”

Usher brought several family members to the 2024 BET Awards, including his wife, Jennifer Goicoechea Raymond, mom Jonnetta Patton, sons Naviyd Raymond and Usher “Cinco” Raymond V and brother J. Lack.

Earlier in the night, Usher won the award for best R&B/hip-hop artist at the BET Awards.

Taraji P. Henson hosted the show, which aired live on BET from Downtown Los Angeles.

See a list of 2024 BET Awards winners.

Justin Hagey contributed to this report.

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