BET Awards: Michelle Obama Gives Surprise Message to Chance the Rapper

“Chance has been taking that big, bright spotlight that follows him around, and he’s shining it on young people in our hometown of Chicago,” Obama said in a video message.

The 17th annual BET Awards on Sunday night in Los Angeles, hosted by “Saturday Night Live” star Leslie Jones, included performances by chart-topping hip-hop and R&B artists, causing the hashtag #BETAwards to trend all night.

But throughout the program there was also a focus on social justice and a tribute to Chance the Rapper’s humanitarianism, which was celebrated by former First Lady Michelle Obama, who joked that she’s known him since he was “a wee little baby rapper.”

BET President Debra L. Lee honored Chance with the 2017 Humanitarian Award presented by Walmart (a DiversityInc Noteworthy Company), saying he uses his “incredible creativity to provide children with the type of education they deserve.”

SocialWorks, Chance’s youth empowerment charity, is a nonprofit organization that aims to empower youth through the arts, education and civic engagement while fostering leadership, accessibility and positivity within the youth throughout Chicago, his hometown.

In March, the three-time Grammy award-winning rapper announced in a news conference that he would be donating $1 million to the Chicago Public Schools system.

Chicago is also the hometown of the former first lady, who has long been an advocate for education. During her time in the White House she launched “Reach Higher,” an initiative that encouraged students to pursue education past high school.

In a surprise video message to congratulate Chance on his award, Obama said both she and former President Barack Obama are “incredibly proud” of him:

“Hello BET family. Barack and I are so sorry that we can’t be there tonight in person. But please know that we are with you in spirit and we are so incredibly proud of you, Chance.

“We have known Chance and his family since he was a wee little baby rapper. And it has been a thrill watching him come into his own in so many ways.

“In addition to making some really amazing music, Chance has been taking that big, bright spotlight that follows him around and he’s shining it on young people in our hometown of Chicago. Time and again he has been standing up, speaking out and doing the work to get kids in our community the education they deserve.

“And with these passionate efforts, Chance is showing our young people that they matter. That they have something inside of them that is worthy of being expressed, and that they have so much to contribute to their communities and to our country.

“Chance, you are an outstanding role model, and an inspiration to all of us who care about our next generation. Because of you, countless young people will grow up believing in themselves, fulfilling their God-given potential, and then reaching back and lifting up other people along the way.

“I am thrilled to celebrate you here tonight, and honored to call you my friend. Thanks so much for everything you do. Congratulations.”

Chance was visibly moved by Obama’s message. At 24 years old, he is the youngest person to receive the TV network’s humanitarian award. He said in his acceptance speech that it “feels a little early to get something like this,” but he added, “My God doesn’t make mistakes, and I like to think that he’s putting this enormous pressure on me to see how I react.”

Chance also took the opportunity to highlight issues of injustice in the U.S. including mass incarceration, police brutality and the underfunding of public schools.

“I had plans originally to try and tell the world and everybody watching how to make it a better place,” he said.

“To tell everybody in this government that y’all need to let everybody out of jail for selling weed before y’all start making it legal for people to sell it, and make capital off it.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Blacks are more than three times as likely as whites to get arrested for marijuana possession.

Chance also said, “I was going to tell the Chicago Public Schools system not to take out a loan from Chase bank when they know that our schools are planning on failing in our district.

“I was going to tell those judges that we need a conviction,” he said, referring to the recent acquittal of former St. Anthony Police Department Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the death of Philando Castile.

But Chance then said he took the advice of a friend who told him “we’ve gotta work on ourselves before we work on the world.”

“I’m a good man, and I am going to become a better man,” he said.

Chance was also congratulated on Twitter:

Similar to Chance, Yara Shahidi, a star of the hit TV show “Black-ish,” was inspired by Obama, who actually wrote her a college recommendation letter.

Shahidi won BET’s Young Stars Award at the awards ceremony, which took place on the birthday of Tamir Rice, who would have turned 15. In 2015, Rice was killed in a fatal encounter with law enforcement in Cleveland, Ohio.

During her acceptance speech, the actress acknowledged his birthday.

“Today is Tamir Rice’s birthday, and so amidst this celebration I’d love to honor his life,” Shahidi said.

Related Story

'Black-ish' Star Yara Shahidi to Join Malia Obama at Harvard

'Black-ish' Star Yara Shahidi to Join Malia Obama at Harvard

Shahidi has decided to attend former President Barack Obama's alma mater.

The 17-year-old announced earlier this month on social media that she has committed to attending Harvard University. Malia Obama will begin classes at Harvard in the fall after taking a gap year between high school and college.

See complete list of 2017 BET Award winners

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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4 comments


  • I don’t know this young man’s music, but I’m pretty sure I’m now going to go out and buy some. Well done!

  • Michelle Obama should have told her husband to do in his DUDley DoLittle 8 years what even a cRapper did for Black inner city Chicago schools. She should have tapped O’Bama’s former incompetent advisor, Rahm Emmanuel, as Chicago’s mayor to do what a cRapper did.

    The O’Bamma’s silently sat by and let Rotten Rahm close several inner city schools and rob teachers’contracts and pensions so that he could use city funds to beautify that swamp called the lakefront for tourism.

    Not only did her half-white husband/president do NOTHING for the over 50% Black youth unemployment rate, he did NOTHING for the over 10% Black adult unemployment rate. His leftist media lackies falsely boasted that he reduced the national unemployment rate to 4.7%. That number was for WHITES ONLY!

    He pardoned over 1000 crackheads’ sentences-unleashing these drug dealers and thieves back into the Black community without any drug rehab programs in place to compensate the ones that are already under-funded.

    What a surprise message! The obamas, including their friend oprah and Jesse Jackson and his thieving son and daughter-in-law, haven’t done a damned thing for their own hometown. It’s hypocritical to tell poor young urban Blacks to go beyond high school when there was enough money during o’bama’ s 8-year presidency to start a program to fund their education. 100% white presidents since George “slaveholder” Washington have helped poor, trifling, lazy, entitled white folKKKs with everything from shoes to scholarships, including land grants [they got more than 40 acres and a mule handed to them on a silver platter].

    • David Andersen

      Still not sure why you continue to allow ZaziJams to spread such nasty messages on here. NO ONE can every do any good in ZaziJams eyes. Would love to see what Zazi has done to better the world. This person is part of the problem, not a solution. The very few things that ever make sense from Zazi are so polluted by hypocrisy, racism, and name calling, that I can never read past the first few sentences.

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