Celebrities talk diversity at 47th Annual NAACP Image Awards
By Amen Oyiboke
Special to the Outlook NNPA News Wire
The 47th annual NAACP Image Awards was a hit at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif., as Black entertainers showed their support for one another and the show, while some expressed concerns over the lack of diversity in other major award shows like the Academy Awards.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that we are not included more often in the Oscars. Whether to boycott it or not that’s up to each individual’s discretion,” said Andra Fuller, star of TV One’s “Here We Go Again.” “The boycott will bring awareness. If you want us to be at your award shows, then recognize us.”
The Image Awards honor the achievements of African Americans in television, music, literature and film. ABC’s “black-ish” star Anthony Anderson hosted the show, opening with a “Straight Outta Compton” rap performance spoof that talked about the lack of diversity in this year’s award season.
“Hollywood needs to know that this is what diversity is supposed to look like,” Anderson said after his performance.
Since 1967, the Image Awards has celebrated “outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts, as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors,” according to the NAACP website.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith attended the Image Awards after publicly announcing that they would not attend the Academy Awards due to the lack of diversity. After the Smiths and director Spike Lee announced their plans to skip the Oscars this year, several actors of color have been more vocal about their views on diversity in Hollywood.
“We don’t need to ask for acceptance from anyone,” said “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson when she received her award for outstanding actress in a drama series. “We are enough, we’ve been enough and we always will be enough.”
Creed actor Michael B. Jordan went home with two awards for outstanding actor in a motion picture and entertainer of the year. “Straight Outta Compton” received an award for outstanding motion picture.
Both films were snubbed during the nomination process for the Academy Awards.
“I’m excited to have the NAACP Image Awards to recognize African American artists and talent. But, it doesn’t say to me that we don’t have a role or place at the Oscars. We’re not mutually exclusive. We can be here tonight celebrating each other and we can be there on the [February] 28th,” said attorney Areva Martin.
Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph noted the importance of viewing African American-branded award shows in the same light of shows like the Academy Awards.
“We shouldn’t look to others to validate how wonderful and beautiful we are,” Ralph said. “I am a great actress and I’ve been in the game for a long time. Remember, we weren’t always celebrated by others that’s why we created shows like this.”
The show paid great attention to those in entertainment and public service. Sanaa Lathan received the award for best actress in a motion picture for her role in “The Perfect Guy.”
Pastor Jamal Bryant, Jussie Smollett of the hit show “Empire,” activist group Concerned Student Collective 1950 at the University of Missouri at Columbia, and five other recipients received the NAACP Chairman’s Award, which honors those with distinguished public service.
The ceremony also featured performances by Smollett, singer Alice Smith and Grammy Award-winning artist John Legend, who received the NAACP President’s Award for his philanthropy.
John Legend said that, “Despite the daunting problems, I am hopeful that our generation will demand and achieve radical change in our lifetime.”