Lil Baby and Sony Music Publishing chairman and CEO Jon “Big Jon” Platt took home top honors Thursday night at the 2nd annual Music in Action Awards Gala benefiting the Black Music Action Coalition.
At this year’s ceremony, presented at The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, Lil Baby received the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award for his social and racial justice efforts, including his annual “Back to School Fest” at Atlanta’s West End Mall. In partnership with Goodr, the event provided over 3,000 local children with music, games, carnival rides, food, backpacks, school supplies and haircuts. Additionally, the rapper worked with Atlanta restaurateur Lemont Bradley to offer 100 jobs to young adults and established the $150,000 “My Turn” scholarship program for students at his former high school.
Lil Baby was congratulated via video message by his mother, Quality Control’s Pierre “P” Thomas and Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams. The Atlanta-born rapper shared his appreciation for the award, stating that Jones has been a role model of his.
“I honestly didn’t know what a humanitarian was, but as I looked into it and started reading, I understand that I’m actually humanitarian,” Lil Baby said to applause from the crowd of 600 people. “I just want to say that I appreciate everybody in here because nothing that we doing or trying to do can be done by one person. It’s gonna take all of us to stick together and stay together.”
Prior to the presentation of Lil Baby’s humanitarian honor, Platt was honored with the Clarence Avant Trailblazer Award. The longtime music executive was frequently thanked in speeches throughout the night, but Platt took his time on stage to read a lengthy letter written 30 years ago asking those in the music industry to help people of color succeed in the music industry. The letter – which Platt later revealed was written by Avant – stated, “The entertainment companies that will prove successful in the decades to come will be those who actively locate and develop diversity within their senior ranks.” It went on to recommend three steps to create that diversity: hiring and nurturing minority executives, providing high-level support for minorities and engaging in philanthropic endeavors to help the Black community and other communities of color.
Platt ended his speech by saying the letter “could be written today. Everybody in this room has a responsibility to people 30 years from now.”
Elsewhere, Amazon Music’s Tim Hinshaw, Sierra Lever, Rochelle Balogun and Josh Peas were presented with the BMAC Social Impact Award by Tyler, The Creator. The artist heaped praise on Hinshaw, whom he has worked with at Vans, Fender and now Amazon Music. “It’s been about 10 years and I’ve watched this man grow and exceed his own expectations,” said Tyler about Hinshaw. He “keeps figuring out to put himself in positions to not only feed himself and his family, but to be a great example for the people around him that is rooting for him. So, Tim, I love you. You’re great.”
Throughout the night, additional awards were handed out by presenters including Anthony Hamilton as well as Brandy, Chuck D, D Nice, all of whom appeared via video. 300 Entertainment’s Kevin Liles and the Recording Academy’s Harvey Mason jr., Panos A. Panay and former co-president Valeisha Butterfield Jones also received Social Impact Awards. Meanwhile, Billboard’s executive director of R&B/hip-hop Gail Mitchell and Variety’s executive editor of music Shirley Halperin were each honored with the BMAC 365 Award for year-round social change.
“Ever since I joined Billboard in 1999, I’ve always been about talking about pushing for Black equity and ownership in this industry,” said Mitchell in her acceptance speech, thanking Liles and Platt for their continuous support and perspectives over the years. “I’m thankful and want to continue telling the stories, sharing the stories and pushing forward for what BMAC represents.”
The night’s other honorees included congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), who accepted her award via video from Washington, D.C.; journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the New York Times’ 1619 Project; attorney and author Brittany K. Barnett, who helps secure prison releases for nonviolent drug offenders with life sentences; and ICM Partners’ Joi Brown, who launched Culture Creators, a platform that engages and celebrates the accomplishments of individuals “who have shaped the world’s view of Black culture.”