By Allana J. Barefield
When Black Entertainment Television (BET) debuted 40 years ago the network ushered in an experience like none other, especially for Black people.
That experience was celebrated on Friday, November 27 on BET Alumni Reunion YouTube channel, BET Worldwide Facebook page and HBCU GO TV. It was a celebration where viewers were able to reminisce and relive the brainchild of businessman Robert Johnson.
Former BET on-air personality Angela Stribling hosted the event, and she said she was ecstatic to be back at the place that sparked her career.
“We were making history, and we didn’t even realize it,” Stribling said in a recent interview.
In preparation for the event, Stribling said she has viewed a portion of the content that will air. “The producer showed me just a couple of the videos of people that I haven’t seen since the 90s and I got all excited,” she said. “People can expect to see some of their favorite television personalities from back in the day.”
The virtual event will include several guests, including Video Soul’s most popular veejay Donnie Simpson, a long-time radio DJ and media personality who hosted BET’s primetime music video show, Video Soul, for 14 years. Debuting in 1983, Video Soul’s hosts have included original host Virgil Hemphill, Sherry Carter, Sheila Banks and Leslie “Big Lez” Segar.
“You can’t really say BET back in the day without talking about Video Soul, so of course we’re going to see the green-eyed man himself, Donnie Simpson,” Stribling said.
Another familiar face that will come on screen is Ed Gordon. The Detroit native was BET’s main news anchor, then transitioned into hosting Weekly with Ed Gordon. He garnered interviews with big names including an exclusive with former pro football player O.J. Simpson, who was charged with murder.
The celebration will focus on BET’s evolution, from being the only Black-owned cable network to the current day owner, Viacom.
Stribling said she knew in the 90s that BET was a force and talent also knew their presence was remarkable. She reminisced about special memories from her tenure and one that remains at the top of her list occurred while working the red carpet for BET and movie star Denzel Washington remembered her name.
“I thought I was going to pass out,” she jokingly said. “It was because we were the only game in town, Black Entertainment Television, we were going to do everything, to uplift Black people who are doing positive things.”
According to former BET executive vice president, Curtis Symonds, the celebration is being held to empower and congratulate all BET talent and he wants to unite all alumni no matter how many years went by.
“There is a unique bond all BET employees share regardless of how long they spent with the network, and that connection is truly on display for this celebration,” Symonds said in a release.
As Stribling looks back at the 40 years, she said she is proud to be part of a legacy. She’s not sure where BET is heading but she believes the future is bright.
“I don’t want to ever see BET go away because we definitely need the representation,” she said.
“We’ve been calling it home for 40 years, so why stop now?”