Actors Sanaa Lathan and Anthony Mackie hosted the 43rd NAACP Image Awards on Friday. Since 1967, the NAACP Hollywood Branch has honored achievements of people of color in entertainment, the arts and literature. Now, the celebration is a live televised multicultural celebration of artists of all ethnicities. The show also applauds people in the entertainment industry who strive to present diverse images. This year, the show also memorialized Whitney Houston, who died suddenly last weekend.
Lenny Kravitz opened with a song chronicling the history of his parents, a biracial couple who married in the 1960s. His father is Jewish and his mother is black, late actress Roxie Roker of “The Jeffersons.” The song featured a montage of pictures of his parents as he sang of the discrimination his parents suffered during that time. He followed with his song “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”
Samuel L. Jackson presented the Vanguard Award to George Lucas for his efforts in providing diversity in films, including introducing Billy Dee Williams in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Williams’ role as Lando Calrissian was not originally created to be for an African-American actor. Most recently, he produced the recent action film “Red Tails,” a film about the Tuskegee Airman. Some of the surviving airmen sat in the audience of this year’s Image Awards. Jennifer Hudson and Ne-Yo sang “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for the filmmaker.
The Image Awards honored “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius for giving us “Love, Peace and Soul.” He did for R&B music what Dick Clark did for rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. The tribute to Whitney Houston, though, was the highlight of the evening. Vanessa Williams first recounted the recent deaths of other noted artists, followed by a montage of Houston’s career highlights. Yolanda Adams sang a song in tribute to Houston. Kirk Franklin & the Family closed the show with a rendition of “The Greatest Love of All,” followed by a gospel song.
“The Help,” with three honors, dominated the NAACP Image Awards as it has other awards this year. The movie won outstanding actress for Viola Davis, outstanding supporting actress for Octavia Spenser, and outstanding motion picture. On Sunday, February 26, “The Help” will likely collect more awards.
The NAACP Image Awards might not be the most noted annual award show; however, it recognizes the achievements of the multicultural landscape in television, films, the arts and literature. For many artists, the Image Awards is the only recognition they receive from the entertainment industry. The nominees and winners, though, represent the long fight for diversity in all forms of entertainment.