BET Networks' The BET Honors was taped at the historic Warner Theatre on Saturday

By Alexandra Rockey Fleming and Lindsay Kimble
Updated March 06, 2016 11:45 AM
Credit: Paras Griffin/Getty

Washington, D.C., traveled back to the ’90s on Saturday night when a slew of the decade’s hottest stars came together to perform at the taping of the BET Honors at the historic Warner Theatre.

Throughout the evening – which was hosted by comedian and actor Arsenio Hall – R&B, hip-hop and pop sensations including Usher and Toni Braxton took to the stage.

Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and “The Boy Is Mine” singer Monica also performed.

Other stars honored the music of the earlier era (and the years proceeding it), including Empire‘s Jussie Smollett, who sang Michael Jackson‘s 1987 song “Man In the Mirror” in front of a montage of social-justice images including Black Lives Matter protestors.

Social justice hits home for Smollett, who told PEOPLE he wants to, “be honest about what s going on in the world with myself and with others.

“It means to speak up for the people that aren’t given a voice,” he continued. “It means to call out the wrongdoings of this nation and of the world, and to do that unapologetically and to say that we all have a responsibility to take care of each other, regardless of race or culture or religion or sexuality or age or gender or whatever it is, we have a responsibility to take care of each other because we are all somehow rooted next to each other.”

Friends of the People’ Stars Talk All Things ’90s in a People Now Confess Sesh

The evening’s main honorees included director Lee Daniels as well as Mellody Hobson, who was decorated with the Corporate Citizen Award; L.A. Reid (The Business of Entertainment Award); Eric H. Holder Jr. (Public Service Award) and Patti LaBelle (Musical Arts Award).

The music legend, 71, was honored in song by American Idol winner Fantasia, who told PEOPLE that LaBelle is a “very honest singer,” and praised the reality show that jumpstarted her career.

“That show opened doors for me. I was just a girl from North Carolina, and it opened the doors for the world for my gift,” she said on Saturday. “I will always thank God for that, not only me but so many other idols – it was just a door-opener for us.”

O’Jay’s vocalist Eddie Levert, who walked the carpet with his wife and two daughters, also performed one of LaBelle’s songs. He told PEOPLE that he’d practiced for 10 days but still had reservations.

“I still don’t have it like she had it,” Levert explained. “But I have it like I can do it. I feel it soulfully ’cause she’s a soulful person and I’m gonna put my soul into it.” As a performer with 50-plus years under his belt, Levert said that younger performers should remember to “keep evolving. Keep moving on. Don t dwell in one place because if you dwell in one place, you become stagnant. Music is something that keeps evolving and changing.”

The BET Honors featured special appearances by Empire‘s Terrence Howard and Gabourey Sibide, and commemorated the gifts of the late Natalie Cole and Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire.