Last night I watched the NAACP Image Awards and I have to say, it was one of the best shows in a long time. I mean, not only did it fall on the first day of Black History Month, but it was also the 150 years of the Emancipation Proclamation. However, this year theme heralded Activism to me.
This event was always a star-studded affair and the most spirited and positive award ceremony of the season. However, this year, it was also the most emotional. With a King of Comedy hosting the affair, you would think laughs would be second place, and there were laughs. Yet, this year Steve Harvey started the ceremonies with, “My New Year’s resolution this year was no more cussing,” he told the audience of celebrities, “It ain’t been working out for me, so this might be a little bit more live than they think it’s gonna be.” That set the tone for a night of Live proclamations of change.
The big winner of the night was Kerry Washington, the Star of Scandal who picked up a trio of awards. Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, for playing the tortured slave Broomhilda in Django Unchained. If you haven’t seen the movie , you should, if you have, Washington actually took that beating. Wow!!! She won Outstanding actress in a drama Series for her role as the talent, fast talking, smart crisis manger Olivia Pope. She is the first woman of color in 40 years playing the lead role in a primetime series. Finally, she won the President’s Award, which is given in recognition of special achievement and exceptional public service.
President Jealous said in presenting Washington with the award. “Washington is a modern day trailblazer ….in the tradition of women like Ruby Dee, Cicely Tyson, and Lena Horne.” Washington is an active member of the V-Counsel, an esteemed group of advisors to V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. When she received the award for Best supporting Actress she said,”This award does not belong to me. It belongs to our ancestors. We shot this film on a slave plantation, and they were with us along every step of the way.”
LL Cool J, who was honored as outstanding actor in a drama series for CBS’ “NCIS: Los Angeles,” dedicated his trophy to fellow nominee Michael Clarke Duncan who died at the end of the year. “I wish his family well,” said LL.
There wasn’t a dry eye left after Gladys Knight belted out “The Way We Were” during the in memoriam segment that left me shocked at those I didn’t know we had lost. But the highlight of the night, for me, was when the Spingarn Medal was presented. Longtime friend Sidney Poitier, presented Harry Belafonte, with the prestigious award. Poitier looked and sounded great, a year after his speech was considerably slowed by an apparent stroke. Yet, it was Mr. Belafonte who used the opportunity to launch an impassioned appeal to those with professional success, yet, who choses not to use it as a platform for social change, instead remain political silent.
The Veteran singer and civil rights activist Belafonte, whose political activism ran alongside his entertainment career, weighed in on the debate over gun violence, chastising fellow African Americans for failing to speak out on the issue.
“In the gun game, we are the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our black children,” Belafonte said. “Where is the raised voice of black America? Why are we mute?”
When Jamie Foxx won for Entertainer of the Year he was clearly shaken by what Mr. Belafonte said. The versatile talented actor showed exemplary humility in saying “I was going to talk about myself, how it was all about me and how I did it, then you watch Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte come out and realize what you’ve done really isn’t that big of a deal.”
You can watch Jamie’s emotional speech as well as others at The Urban Daily.
I watch the show this year not with the eyes of a fan seeing all the famous faces, but as an activist. I came away with a clear sense that I can make a difference in my community, city, state, country and world. An activist, don’t wait for one person to come up with a doctrine or practices to promote change, instead they are the advocate of change.