The 2019 BET Awards aired Sunday night and brought together some of the most talented entertainers, athletes and influencers within the culture. For some artists such as Lil Nas X and Lizzo, it was their first experience at the ceremony. For seasoned attendees like Tyler Perry and Mary J. Blige, their awards were additions to their ever-growing trophy cases. All around, however, it was a night celebrating achievements and remembering those who left us this year. Let's get into the top moments of the 2019 BET Awards.

1. Cardi B opened up the show with a steamy, energetic bop and declared she's not about to get locked up. 

There's no denying Cardi B is one the hottest artists in the game right now, and the 26-year-old set an early tone for the evening with a dynamic rendition of her latest single "Press." The Bronx native even brought out husband Offset for a quick lap dance onstage while simultaneously rapping her verse from his single "Clout."

In what appeared to be a behind-the-scenes clip, Cardi was heard chanting "I'm not going to jail" in light of her recent indictment by a grand jury. We are fully and completely here for this energy. 




2. Rihanna presented Mary J. Blige with the BET Lifetime Achievement Award.

We had no indication whether Rihanna would grace the audience with her presence at the show, so consider us surprised when the mogul presented Mary J. Blige with one of the highest honors of the evening: the BET Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Rih Rih spoke in-depth about Blige's achievements, citing her history-making two Academy Award nominations in the same year, for supporting actress and original song for Mudbound. ET Online obtained a full transcript of both Rihanna and Blige's remarks. We dare you not to shed a tear or two.

The feeling was certainly mutual for Blige, who told the "Disturbia" songstress that "I don’t think you know how much I love and respect you. I'm a huge fan and you inspire me right back."

Of course, Auntie Mary performed a medley of her iconic hits, signature dance moves included. 3. Tyler Perry delivered a powerful speech while accepting the Ultimate Icon Award.

There's no denying that Tyler Perry is one of the most innovative filmmakers in the industry. After all, he brought to life Madea, a character only he could perfectly play, and then held a nationwide tour for her funeral.

Actress Taraji P. Henson presented Perry with the award, telling the crowd that the 49-year-old "embodies what the African American dream truly is." Perry accepted the honor to a roaring standing ovation with remarks that were not only poignant, but also motivating. 

"When I built my studio, I built it in a neighborhood that is one of the poorest Black neighborhoods in Atlanta so that young Black kids could see that a Black man did that, and they can do it too," he said to the crowd. "I was trying to help somebody cross. The studio was once a Confederate Army base — and I want you to hear this — which meant that there were Confederate soldiers on that base, plotting and planning on how to keep 3.9 million Negroes enslaved. Now that land is owned by one Negro." The remark ignited cheers and applause from the audience.

Tyler then offered some parting words of wisdom to the crowd: "I want you to hear this. Every dreamer in this room, there are people whose lives are tied to your dream. Own your stuff, own your business, own your way."

4. The Central Park Five, introduced as the Exonerated Five, were honored for their resilience.

The five men wrongly convicted in connection with a brutal rape in 1989 received a standing ovation of their own Sunday night. Introduced by Regina Hall as "The Exonerated Five," the actress noted that director Ava DuVernay's Netflix series When They See Us has put the men, whose convictions were vacated in 2002 after DNA evidence proved their innocence, back in headlines due to the racial climate many of us face today. 

"When They See Us reminds us all that the racial injustices continue to happen … and plague our justice system," Hall said, before introducing Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam.

Sharing the microphone, the five men then recited a monologue of their own, using truth as a foundation to point to how one should live their life.

"We are all on our own individual journey in life. We don't know where our journey will take us or if (it) will collide with others. One day will bond me to these men for the rest of our lives. But I know that in telling our truth, our lives have been changed forever. Your truth is the foundation your legacy will be built on."

5. Nipsey Hussle's family accepted the Humanitarian Award on his behalf.

No one can forget the moment they learned rapper Nipsey Hussle was gunned down in the parking lot of his Marathon clothing store in Los Angeles nearly three months ago. Since his passing, tributes have poured in honoring the Grammy-nominated artist. BET prepared a beautiful eulogy of their own, and Nipsey's family was present to witness the entire testimonial. Angelique Smith, Hussle's mother told a riveting story of being at the scene of her son's killing and consoling one of Nip's friends.

"One of Ermias's close friends was very traumatized," Smith began. "I walked over to him and put my hands on his shoulder, and I told him, 'Evan, look into my eyes, Evan.' I said, 'You know that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, right Evan? You understand that, right?' So even though our bodies die, as they call it on this side of eternity, our spirits live."

She continued: "We lift out of this vessel and we continue on, and then I felt a spirit of retribution and revenge when I had my hands on his shoulder and I had to talk. I was 100 percent present in the spirit and 100 percent absent in the body until I felt that spirit of retribution and revenge. I could tell I chased those spirits away from him."

The memorial also included a concert featuring some of Nip's closest allies, including a live performance of "Higher," the final single Nip recorded with DJ Khaled and John Legend.

Filled with laughter, sadness and memorable moments, the BET Awards reminded us that despite the unfortunate setbacks that have affected the Black community, at the end of the day, it's our excellence that reigns.