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Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys

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Singers, actors and television personalities saluted Michael Jackson as a transformative figure at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards, which was hastily retooled to be a night of tribute to the entertainer.Stars arriving on the red carpet told reporters personal stories about the "King of Pop," and hailed Jackson for breaking down racial barriers."We miss him and we love him and we just feel devastated," said singer Alicia Keys, urging people to remember Jackson in a "respectful, positive way."Asked how Jackson had influence her, Keys replied: "In every way.

How could he not influence us to break the barrier and to think bigger, and to try new things and to break the rules."Tonight I think is a true memorial for him.

It's really about honoring him this evening."BET announced shortly after Jackson's death that the annual awards ceremony would be tweaked to serve as an unofficial memorial for the singer and a celebration of his life."Michael Jackson's the biggest thing that's happened to music in our lifetime.

When we heard he had passed away we knew we had to revamp this whole show and make it special just for him," said BET Chairwoman and CEO Debra Lee."It's going to be a celebration tonight, it's going to be a little sad, but it's going to be a celebration," Lee said.Attendees said they remained in shock over Jackson's sudden and unexpected death.Singer Chaka Khan held back tears as she spoke to reporters."I haven't gotten to the point where I can break down yet because I just don't believe it," she said."I have to believe that energy lives on and he's still with us in some amazing way."Several stars hailed Jackson's role in breaking down racial barriers and giving African-Americans a hero to idolize."He's one of the reasons why Barack Obama's president," said hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs."He started the change in the world about how African-Americans are perceived," he added.

Taraji P.

Henson, the Oscar-nominated star of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," echoed Combs's words."That's exactly what we're doing -- celebrating his life and that's what this night is about," Henson said."He's the biggest star in America -- in the world.

I feel like he parted a gap so that Obama could be the president.

His rise to fame was the beginning of 'Oh, black people are okay.'"Actress and co-host of talkshow "The View" Sherri Shephard said she was "still numb.""I mean, Michael Jackson shaped every part of our lives...

I used to dream about marrying Michael."
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