Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill stunned the audience at last night’s BET Awards with a powerful performance that denounced mass incarceration and police violence in black communities.
Mill was joined by singer Miguel to perform his new song, “Stay Woke.” The backdrop of the performance included actors portraying members of a black community: kids playing on the streets while adults converse with one another. The story takes a turn when a group of police officers come in and disrupt the regular activity of the community by arresting the black men.
The tension rises and culminates when a young black girl is shot and killed by the police. Her mother runs into the frame and her screams are all that can be heard.
As Mill raps, “How can I pledge allegiance to the flag when they killing all our sons, all our dads? / I come from a place where you kill your own brother, you can brag,” an officer places an American flag over the child’s body.
The chilling performance also included black men in orange prison jumpsuits holding up prison bars.
“Stay Woke” is Mill’s first new song since his release from prison for violating his probation in April. He performed the new song while commemorating both XXXTentacion and Jimmy Wopo — two rappers who were murdered in shootings this month — on his hoodie.
The performance was lauded by many on Twitter.
— Ya Fav ? (@amourmaddii) June 25, 2018
So happy & proud of my brother @MeekMill …..Great performance…Great message…STAND UP PHILADELPHIA!!!!!
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) June 25, 2018
Meek Mill WON for best performance tonight #BETAwards
— We$t (@CjayyTaughtHer) June 25, 2018
WOPO made it to the BET AWARDS ?? Appreciate the support Meek Mill pic.twitter.com/HCe3e0ByHa
— The Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) June 25, 2018
One of the dopest performances I’ve seen ! Fire Meek Mill ?
— Lil Key (@BmoreLilKey) June 25, 2018
on this part.. I COULD HEAR ALL THE CRIES OF BLACK MOTHERS THROUGHTOUT THE YEARS, THIS TRUTH IN THIS TRACK MADE ME CRY ??? Meek Mill Stay Woke ft Miguel pic.twitter.com/l64ccR3zHW
— sᴏʙʀɪᴇᴛʏ (@innocitto) June 25, 2018
— Lil' Kim (@LilKim) June 25, 2018
— Kyra T (@kyrraa____) June 25, 2018
— ♡ (@justinexo___) June 25, 2018
However, there was some controversy over his choice to wear a sweatshirt with XXXTentacion on the front because of the late rapper’s violent and abusive behavior.
Meek Mill wearing XXXTENTACION on his hoodie has me very torn. #BETAwards
This should be a message for all. Instead, an abuser is implicitly honored. That's a shame.
It's a powerful performance, and gun violence must be curbed point blank period. But still.
— Sam Whiteout (@samwhiteout) June 25, 2018
i’m glad BET Awards showed Xxxtentacion acknowledging his death despite all the negativity around it bc nobody deserves to die no matter what they did or how much he’s disliked.
— IMARI ?? (@imariyavonne) June 25, 2018
This performance wasn’t Mill’s first time using his platform to discuss gun violence. In May, he encouraged President Trump to visit his neighborhood to see the actual influence of violence on young people growing up in these communities.
@MeekMill addresses gun violence and invites President Trump to visit his neighborhood and actually witness what is going on. He said he actually has solutions for Chicago because he’s experienced the same environment in his own community growing up. #PoliticsNation pic.twitter.com/xgEb83XC2U
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) May 13, 2018