By Jenna Amatulli
The 2018 BET Awards honored several heroes on Sunday night whom presenter John Legend described as “individuals who’ve had the opportunity in their everyday lives to do something unexpected and impactful for our community.”
Justin Blackman, Anthony Borges, Mamoudou Gassama, Shaun King, James Shaw Jr. and Naomi Wadler were all honored as BET’s first-ever Humanitarian Heroes.
“Everyone has an opportunity to be extraordinary, don’t be afraid to be a hero,” said Legend of the honorees.
For a refresher on who these honorees are, you can read more below:
Teenager Justin Blackman was the sole student of roughly 700 enrolled at Wilson Preparatory Academy in North Carolina who participated in the March 14 walkout to protest gun violence. He spent 17 minutes outside the school to demonstrate alone in memoriam of the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting just one month before.
Anthony Borges is a high school student at that Parkland school ― Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ― that Blackman walked out on behalf of and helped save many of his classmates on the day of that horrific shooting. The soccer player used his own body to shield classmates and suffered from multiple gunshot wounds.
Mamoudou Gassama has been referred to a real-life Spider-Man for his incredible climbing feat in Paris, France, last month. The 22-year-old Malian native rescued a 4-year-old dangling from a fourth-floor balcony. Of the heroic moment, Gassama told Le Parisien: “I did not think of the floors … I did not think of the risk. I did it because it’s a child.”
Activist and journalist Shaun King is a columnist for The Intercept and the Writer-In-Residence at Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project. The 38-year-old has frequently spoken out on social media about violence or harassment toward people of color and has helped police identify and arrest violent white supremacists.
BET says King has used his platform to “discover the truth beyond local media, and to guide us in our organization to lobby, speak, litigate, protest, write, or find justice.”
James Shaw Jr. became a household name after single-handedly disarming a gunman in a Tennessee Waffle House during a horrific attack that left four people dead and two others injured. The 29-year-old tackled the shooter, grabbed the gun’s barrel with his bare hands, and kicked him out of the establishment.
Mere weeks after his incredible actions, Shaw Jr. continued his good deeds by starting a GoFundMe campaign that raised nearly $250,000 for the families of the dead and injured.
The final honoree was Naomi Wadler, a poised 11-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia, who delivered an inspiring speech during the March for Our Lives rally earlier this year about the black girls whose stories never make the news.
“I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential,” she said in her speech.
“I am here to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news,” Wadler said during her speech. “I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.”