*Washington, D.C. – BET alumni will celebrate the network’s 40-year anniversary during a virtual retrospective on Friday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. EST. The event, hosted by former BET on-air personality Angela Stribling, will be presented as a webinar for public viewing on HBCU GO TV, BET Alumni Reunion YouTube channel and the BET Worldwide Facebook page.
The presentation will provide viewers a unique glimpse into what it was like for many employees, both on the air and behind the scenes, to work at (what was at that time) the only Black-owned cable network, and will focus primarily on a 20-year period of BET’s evolution beginning with its inception in 1980 until 2000 shortly before Viacom purchased the network from its founder and chairman Robert L. Johnson. Donnie Simpson (Video Soul), Ed Gordon (Conversations with Ed Gordon and BET News anchor), Bobby Jones (Bobby Jones Gospel) and Charlie Neal (BET Sports anchor and play-by-play commentator) headline an illustrious group of the network’s early and most recognizable on-air personalities, and will be joined by former BET senior executives Jefferi K. Lee (production) and Curtis Symonds (affiliate sales and marketing), all of whom will share their reminiscences as the company evolved into the pre-eminent platform to expose Black music, artists and culture to the masses.
The special will also include interviews with former prominent record company executives such as David Linton (Senior VP, Capitol Records/Chairman Living Legends Foundation) and Marylou Badeaux (Warner Bros. VP, Special Projects) who discuss the network’s impact on their artists, along with some performers who credit BET with providing exposure that ultimately catapulted them to mainstream success. Commentary from behind-the- scenes employees who recall what it meant to work for the network in roles that many were not able to achieve in other organizations will also be featured.
This year’s reunion continues a tradition started by Symonds nearly 20 years ago to bring former employees together to renew personal and professional friendships and celebrate their collective success while employed at BET. Originally planned as an in-person gathering, former Video Soul producer Montez Miller volunteered to create the 2020 affair virtually, singlehandedly engaging past colleagues from across the country to gather photos and video clips, along with conducting interviews with many of BET’s most popular on-camera personnel from that era.
“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,” former EVP Curtis Symonds said. “When it became obvious we could not have an in-person event as we had for many years, Montez reached out to make it happen, After I made an appeal for us to share this with the media, one of our former PR directors wasted no time offering to write and distribute a press release. Bob not only built a network, but allowed us to create a family where we still support each other. It’s one reason why the network was successful. We embraced what Bob built and want to make sure we never fail in maintaining the vision.”