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2020 Dove Awards promotes unity, diversity after last year's backlash: 'Lift every voice and sing'

2020 Dove Awards promotes unity, diversity after last year's backlash: 'Lift every voice and sing'

(L to R) Jenn Johnson, Tauren Wells, Jekalyn Carr and Christine D' Clario onstage after filming their performance for the 2020 Dove Awards at TBN Studios on September 17, 2020 in Hendersonville, Tennessee. | Photo by Don Claussen/Trap The Light Photography for Dove Awards

Dove Awards 2020 kicked off with a message of unity and racial reconciliation after facing criticism over last year’s program. 

Following the 2019 Dove Awards, Kirk Franklin announced that he was boycotting Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Gospel Music Association, the Dove Awards, and any organization affiliated with the event until they addressed issues of diversity. This boycott came about after TBN, which broadcasts the awards show every year, removed parts of Franklin's 2016 and 2019 Dove Awards acceptance speeches, both of which, he said, advocated for racial justice. 

This year's show represented diversity and unity with its theme "Carry the Change." 

The 51st annual GMA Dove Awards kicked off with a declaration from various popular Christian and gospel artists, including: for King & Country, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Matthew West, Travis Greene, Danny Gokey, Tauren Wells, Zach Williams, Steven Curtis Chapman, Natalie Grant, Mandisa, Mali Music, Jeremy Camp, Kari Jobe, and Christine D’Clario, among others.

In their joint statement, which began with several scriptures that call on Christians to be the light of the dark world, the performers said: “Let there be light. The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?”  

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“Jesus said it, 'I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Therefore, let us live as children of light. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.’ Carry the change,” the artists proclaimed. 

The collective voices then began to recite, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is being referred to as the black national anthem.

"Rise up, oh people of God,” it began. “Lift every voice and sing, til earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty. Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies, let it resound loud as the rolling seas. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us and sing a song full of the hope that the presence has brought us, facing the rising sun of our new day begun. Let us March on til victory is won,” the group continued. 

The message of unity was further promoted as they went on recite Micah 6:8, which states: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

The performers said: “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Clothed in humility,” the artists declared. “Use every ability to right the wrongs, restore the fallen, remember the forgotten. Is that not our calling?” 

The audience-free awards show wanted viewers to know that although at the moment people cannot be together, they can “most definitely come together, one in the bond of Jesus.”

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light we will have fellowship with one another, all over the planet, isn't that how God planned it?” the nominees added. “To proclaim we are one through God the Father and Jesus, established in unity to expand the community. Lay down our differences and walk in harmony.”

The message ended with them saying, “Lift your voice, lift your life, lift your prayers to our rock and our redeemer and whatever comes our way, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Carry the change.”

The show then went into a performance by for King & Country and Lecrae with the song “Amen” in a pre-taped appearance at a TBN studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Gospel legend CeCe Winans then honored several black artists, including Kanye West for his gospel music releases, Tye Tribbet for his show “Praise” on TBN, Kirk Franklin for his work on “Sunday Best” and his latest album, The Autobiography of Richard Smallwood, and The Clark Sisters and their Lifetime autobiographical film. Others acknowledged were singers Jonathan McReynolds, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Jekalyn Carr and Travis Greene.

(L to R) Sinach, Leeland & Mandisa perform onstage for the 2020 Dove Awards at TBN Studios on September 17, 2020 in Hendersonville, Tennessee. | Photo by Don Claussen/Trap The Light Photography for Dove Awards

During the program, Nigerian worship leader Sinach shared her testimony behind the hit song “Waymaker” followed by Mandisa and Leeland and the Maverick city choir belting out a rendition of the tune. 

The Dove Awards featured numerous collaborations including a moving performance by "Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year" winner Tauren Wells featuring Christine D’Clario, Jenn Johnson and Jekalyn Carr.

Later in the program, Natalie Grant, who previously said she lost thousands of fans following her comments about racial injustice, declared, “I don’t think unity is possible apart from the Gospel.”

 Jonathan McReynolds added, “The Dove Awards, from the beginning, said two great things to me — excellence and diversity. To see all the different representations and expressions of gospel music, of Christian music, of Jesus music was so beautiful to me.”

Winners of the night included Christian rockers Skillet, praise group Hillsong Worship, crossover superstar Lauren Daigle and gospel pioneer Kirk Franklin.

The following is a partial list of winners:

  •  for KING & COUNTRY, earned a Dove alongside Dolly Parton for last their collaboration of "God Only Knows". 

  • Bluegrass/Country/Roots Album of the Year: Jimmy Fortune - God & Country 

  • Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year: Kirk Franklin - LONG LIVE LOVE 

  • Gospel Worship Recorded Song of the Year: Kierra Sheard featuring Tasha Cobbs Leonard - "Something Has To Break (Live)" 

  • Inspirational Album of the Year: Selah - "Firm Foundation" 

  • Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year: Selah - "Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me" 

  • Long Form Video of the Year: Hillsong Worship - "Awake (Live)" 

  • Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year: Tauren Wells - "Citizen of Hope" 

  • Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year: Lauren Diagle - "Rescue" 

  • Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year: Skillet - Victorious 

  • Short Form Video of the Year: for KING & COUNTRY featuring Dolly Parton - "God Only Knows" 

  • Songwriter of the Year (artist): Zach Williams 

  • Southern Gospel Album of the Year: Legacy Five - Pure Love 

  • Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year: The Erwins - "The Power of an Empty Tomb" 

  • Spanish Language Recorded Song of the Year: Christine D'Clario - "Loco Amor" 

  • Traditional Gospel Album of the Year: The Clark Sisters - The Return

  • Worship Album of the Year: Hillsong Worship - Awake 


For the full list of winners, click here.

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