"This has already proven to be quite a year for our country," Legend said during the star-studded award show at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday. "School shootings, police brutality, and now the evil act of intentionally separating parents from their children at the border."
Legend, who was there to present the annual BET Humanitarian Award, explained how this year, they had decided to do things a little differently.
"Typically, the BET Awards honors a celebrity humanitarian who has done something extraordinary for our world," Legend continued. "But tonight, we want to honor a few of the individuals who have had the opportunity in their everyday lives to do something unexpected and impactful for our community."
The first recipient was Anthony Borges, a student at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The teenager was shot five times during the horrific mass shooting in February, while trying to protect his fellow students.
Borges stood on stage, with the help of crutches, alongside James Shaw Jr., who courageously wrestled an assault rifle out of the hands of a mass shooter at a Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee, back in May, saving the lives of numerous other patrons.
High school student Justin Blackman was also honored among the real-life heroes. Blackman was a lone student who walked out of class in North Carolina on National Walkout Day, to protest gun violence in America.
Legend also introduced "real-life superhero" Mamoudou Gassama, who gained fame for his mindblowing heroism in May when he climbed the outside of an apartment complex in France to save an infant who was dangling from a balcony.
Next, 11-year-old Naomi Wilder received the honor in recognition for inspiring the world with her passionate speech at the March For Our Lives event in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.
Finally, Legend introduced citizen journalist and activist Sean King, who was honored with the award for his tireless work reporting and uncovering "stories that make us aware of atrocities in our community" and "speaks truth to power" every day.
"Tonight, we honor these heroes, and thank them for giving us hope and reminding us that everyone has an opportunity to do something extraordinary," Legend shared. "Don't be afraid to be a hero."
Shortly after the emotional segment, rapper Meek Mill took the stage to debut his new song "Stay Woke," and delivered one of the most powerful performances of any awards show in recent memory.
The artist, who was released from prison in April following a controversial incarceration, wore a hoodie featuring the face of slain rapper XXXTentacion -- who was fatally shot in South Florida on June 18.
The shocking and powerful performance included shocking moments of stark realism, such as a group of police officers violently detaining two black men while other officers point their guns at observers recording the incident on their phones, followed by a little girl getting shot and killed in the scuffle, and her heartbroken mother sobbing uncontrollably over her body as the music fades out to let the horror of the moment take center stage.
The chilling and deeply emotional performance ended with a group of men dressed in orange prison uniforms standing behind bars, which fall loudly to the floor as the song comes to an end and the lights dim.
Many of the students at Stoneman Douglas High School have been working hard to make their voices heard and to keep their message about gun violence and reform at the forefront of people's minds.
Recently, the students from the school's drama department brought the audience at this year's Tony Awards to tears with a stunning performance of the iconic tune "Seasons of Love" from the Tony-winning Broadway musical Rent.
In May, Parkland students appeared on stage at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards where they joined Shawn Mendes and Khalid for a performance of their powerful new song "Youth."