Traditionally held to honour top entertainers and achievers, this year's BET awards became a special celebration of the life and work of arguably the most influential performer of his time, Michael Jackson.
And as his contemporaries took the opportunity to pay homage to the late king of pop, his brave sister Janet and father Joe made a public appearance at the star-studded event, just three days after losing their beloved brother and son.
Escorted on stage at Sunday's Black Entertainment Television Awards by Jamie Foxx, the youngest of the Jackson clan made a short and emotional speech explaining to the audience the entire family wanted to attend the ceremony but that it was "just too painful."
"To you Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts," the 43-year-old told stars including Beyonce Knowles, Alicia Keys and Kanye West, who gave her a standing ovation as her dad Joe, 80, looked on from a seat in the auditorium's front row.
Host Jamie – wearing a red leather Thriller jacket and a white glove - kicked off proceedings with his rendition of Michael's signature Moonwalk to great applause. He was the first of many paying homage to the late 50-year-old singer throughout the evening.
R&B female artist of the year Beyonce dedicated her gong to Michael whom she referred to as "my teacher and my hero", while Sean Combs said the star had "knocked down barriers" for black artists like himself. Immediately following Janet's speech, Ray actor Jamie and singer Ne-Yo – named best male performer - gave a moving performance of I'll Be There against a back drop of a photo montage of the entertainer.
For Michael's dad, the evening's event was a fitting commemoration of his son's life. "I think if Michael was here he would enjoy the celebrations. He couldn't be here but its like he is larger than he was before."
Asked how he hoped the Thriller icon would be remembered, Joe added: "I would like him to be remembered forever around the world. And we know that all over the world, everybody is supporting him at the moment."