Credit: Mark Davis/BET/Getty Images for BET

The highlight of Sunday’s BET Awards came in the form of one iconic star: Janet Jackson.

BET awarded Ms. Jackson with the Ultimate Icon: Music Dance Visual Award, and enlisted her longtime friends and producers, Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, and Ciara, Jason Derulo and Tinashe to honor her work.

“We began a fantastic journey with a friend we celebrate tonight. She came to us a young woman with a lot to say and boy did she say it. She is Ms. Janet Jackson,” Lewis said as he and Jimmy Jam introduced the tribute, which ended in fireworks.

“At the time there were few women demanding respect and sounding so funky doing it,” Jimmy Jam said. “Janet’s music and her vocal expressions were empowering innovative and provocative.”

To many fans’ dismay, though, Jackson didn’t perform. Instead she gave a moving speech thanking BET and the crowd for their continued support.

“It’s been a very long journey to this moment,” she said. “My heart is so full. Thank you God for making anything, everything possible.” She also thanked her family, including her mother and father who sat in the audience.

“Twenty-five years ago, we created Rhythm Nation hoping the world would be a better place. But today there’s even more to be done.” Janet’s next album is due out later in the fall, and earlier this year she announced plans for the Unbreakable World Tour. “To all the fans,” she said, “I’ve missed you so much and I love you so much.”

See the full performance: