'Vote like our life depends on it': Beyoncé's BET speech seeks change to 'racist and unequal system'

Former first lady Michelle Obama presented Beyoncé with the 2020 Humanitarian of Year Award at the BET Awards Sunday night.

"I am here to talk about The Queen, you know the one," Obama said in a video presentation, which began the accolades to the singer and activist. "Ever since she was a little girl in Houston, Beyoncé Knowles Carter has been lighting up the stages and gracing the world with her talent, with her generosity of spirit and with her love for her community."

"You can see it in everything she does. From her music that gives voice to Black joy and Black pain, to her activism that demands justice for Black Lives," said Obama. "And no matter how big the stages get, I know my girl isn't satisfied unless she's sharing all that shine she has with the next generation."

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Michelle Obama presented the humanitarian award to Beyoncé at the BET Awards.

The video focused on Beyoncé's work with the community, education initiatives, low-income housing and providing increased support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Obama said Beyoncé has been a key influence for young performers, "pulling up" a new generation of singers such as Chloe x Halle.

"That's why she's calling out sexism and racism when she sees it, paving a path for new artists trying to navigate the music industry," said Obama.

Obama praised Beyoncé for rewriting "Get Me Bodied" for the White House's "Let' Move" exercise and health initiative, saying she "got a whole lot of kids shaking it on the dance floor."

Former first lady Michelle Obama pays tribute to BET's Humanitarian Award winner, Beyoncé.

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"She's always turning up, looking out and making us all a little bit better, a little more fierce," said Obama. "To my girl, I just want to say, you inspire me. You inspire all of us."Obama ended the tribute with a smile, saying, "Congratulations girl, love you so much."

This was followed by Beyoncé's mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, saying her daughter has always been "blessed to give back" to the community.

Producer Tyler Perry said Beyoncé was a superstar "with heart, with kindness, that really changes the world" adding her ethos is "about giving and paying it forward."

Beyoncé accepts the 2020 Humanitarian Award during the BET Awards.

In a video speech, Beyoncé dedicated the award "to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there inspiring me, marching and fighting for change."

"Your voices are being heard," said Beyoncé. "And you're proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain."

Beyoncé ended the speech urging voter participation, especially in local elections and primaries. "I'm encouraging you to continue to take action, continue to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system. We have to continue to do this together."

"We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does," she said. "So please continue to be the change you want to see."

On Monday, Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted praise over Beyoncé's voting speech, calling it "powerful."