Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Icon award winner Janet Jackson performs a medley at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018, in Las Vegas.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Girls & Women

Janet Jackson Gave a Powerful Speech as the First Black Woman to Win the Billboard Icon Award

Janet Jackson, the queen of the “Rhythm Nation,” made history Sunday night by becoming the first black woman to receive Billboard Music’s Icon Award.

First given to Neil Diamond in 2011, the Icon Award is Billboard’s highest honor and recognizes artists’ contributions to the industry. But in her acceptance speech, Jackson took a moment to recognize the contributions of the many women who have said #MeToo and spoken out against sexual harassment and abuse.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

"I believe for all our challenges, we live at a glorious moment in history,” Jackson said. “It's a moment when, at long last, women have made it clear that we will no longer be controlled, manipulated, or abused. I stand with those women and with those men equally outraged who support us in heart and mind. This is also a moment when our public discourse is loud and harsh."     

Jackson has previously used her platform and her music to address gender and racial discrimination. “Because of my gender, I’ve heard no too many times/Because of my race, I’ve heard no too many times,” she sings in her 1993 hit “New Agenda.” “But with every no I grow in strength/That’s why as an African-American woman, I stand tall with pride.” 

Read more: Oprah’s Inspirational Golden Globes Speech Put the Spotlight on Gender and Racial Injustice

Jackson plans to continue using her music and her voice to bring attention to issues that matter.

“I’m anxious. I’m angry [about today’s state of the nation],” she told Billboard magazine in a May 17 interview. “I’m certainly concerned, but when I hear new artists finding their voices, just as I found mine, I’m optimistic ... We’re determined not to fall back to those days of emotional and even physical enslavement. It’s a blessing to be alive today and join in the fight for equality among all human beings.”

Before receiving the award on Sunday, Jackson graced the stage for the first time in nine years, and the first time since becoming a mother, performing several of her biggest hits. 

As a Billboard Icon Award winner, the “Nasty” singer joins the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Prince, and Global Citizen Stevie Wonder — and people couldn’t be happier about it.

Global Citizen campaigns for freedom, for justice, for all. Take action here to support gender equality and help protect women around the world from sexual violence.