Two—that’s the number of black people who have an EGOT, that is, at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. Whoopi Goldberg and John Legend are a part of that elite 15-member club. Cynthia Erivo, Billy Porter and Viola Davis are almost there.
Unfortunately, we can’t count on irregular trends that may arise when Hollywood feels like patting themselves on the back by simply acknowledging a few Negroes every few years, there’s one thing that’s consistently black: black-ass awards shows.
As such, I present to you the BIST, an elite designation given to the select few who have won a BET Award, NAACP Image Award and a Soul Train Music Award. Similar to the EGOT, it highlights the classic and historic awards.
I see you over there, counting on your fingers and realizing I only named three awards instead of the four awards associated with the EGOT. But, since when do black folks color inside the lines? We do our own shit over here and will keep that same energy, are we clear? BARS. Also, unlike the mainstream (read: white) version, I am including honorary, non-competitive awards.
Allow me to give you a little background as to how this spectacular accomplishment came to be. It was Spring of 2018 and five writers—Darnell, Deonté, Taj, Rowin and I—decided to go on an impromptu writers’ retreat in Big Bear Lake, Calif.
In the spirit of talking shit, we gathered around the cabin one night and decided that before we reach our personal writerly goals of copping that much-coveted EGOT, we’d more likely obtain a BIST, first. And we thought, shit, why isn’t that just as dope, if not doper?
Often, when an awarded black artist or creator steps onstage to present their acceptance speech at a black awards show, they express the feeling of just how extra special it is to be recognized by your own people. It’s family (albeit, a dysfunctional one, as we still have to rectify the erasure of our black-ass LGBTQIA members). It’s ours.
Since it’s Black History Month and we’re about to embark on a black awards weekend—there’s the NAACP Image Awards and ABFF Honors—I figured this was a perfect time to highlight the extra-excellent folks who embody black excellence: the BISTs.
Writer’s Note: As this is a new designation, we don’t yet have the comprehensive list—and there are several more BISTs than EGOTs—so we are simply highlighting some great examples today.
As this entire foray is about giving flowers to those artists while they’re still here, there were several snubs that surprised me while researching for this piece: Cicely Tyson (missing: Soul Train, BET), Tyler Perry (missing: Soul Train), Angela Bassett (missing: BET), Viola Davis (missing: Soul Train), Big and Little Luther Vandross (missing: BET), Lauryn Hill (missing: BET; which, may be the origin story for her tendency to show up to concerts on CPT), Regina King (missing: Soul Train), Ava DuVernay (missing: Soul Train), Chaka Khan (missing: Image), Janet Jackson (missing: Image), Stevie Wonder (missing: BET; doesn’t he perform at every damn ceremony?!), Aretha Franklin (missing: Soul Train), Will Smith (missing: Soul Train), Denzel Washington (missing: Soul Train), Donald Glover (missing: Soul Train) and Beyoncé (as a solo artist; missing: Image)!
And of course, as acknowledged above, the Soul Train Music Awards don’t have an equivalent category to Grammy’s Spoken Word to make it easier for non-singing talent to cop one. So while this group may not be as exclusive as the EGOT, I’d argue it’s more difficult to get a BIST as a non-singer or non-songwriter.
But, you never know, any of these things can change in 2020. Stay tuned...
Also, I’d like to give a special shoutout to G/O Media’s art department, who provided our cover graphic above, as a tribute to Tracy Morgan’s character, Tracy Jordan, in 30 Rock.
Cheers to the best. Cheers to the BIST.