Black Stars Shine at the 53rd NAACP Image Awards

Following the week-long virtual experience, the NAACP celebrated the stellar achievements of the “53rd NAACP Image Awards” winners during a special LIVE broadcast on BET hosted by seven-time NAACP Image Awards winner Anthony Anderson and presented by Wells Fargo. Watch an encore presentation of the “53rd NAACP Image Awards” Monday, February 28 at 9 PM ET/PT on BET.

Winners of the night included Chicagoan Jennifer Hudson (Entertainer of the Year and Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture – “Respect”), Angela Bassett (Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series – “9-1-1”), Will Smith (Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture – “King Richard”), Sterling K. Brown (Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series  – “This is Us”), Issa Rae (Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series – “Insecure”), Anthony Anderson (Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series – “black-ish”), Nikole Hannah-Jones (Social Justice Impact) and “The Harder They Fall” (Outstanding Motion Picture).

During the ceremony, NAACP President and CEO, Derrick Johnson, presented the President’s Award to Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex who together have heeded the call to social justice and have joined the struggle for equity both in the U.S. and around the world.

“Through the work of their foundation and their unwavering commitment to the causes we believe in and share, [The Duke and Duchess of Sussex] have demonstrated they are so deserving of this honor,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson.

NAACP Image Award winner and Academy Award-nominated actor and producer Samuel L. Jackson was recognized with the prestigious Chairman’s Award during the ceremony. In his acceptance speech, Jackson quoting Marion Wright: “Service is the rent we pay for being. The very purpose of life and not something we do in our spare time,” prompted the audience to continue “to put [their] legs, [their] bodies, and our voices to work to make sure that people do get out and vote no matter what they do keep us from doing it.”

The ceremony also featured a spectacular performance by nine-time Grammy Award-winning singer and two-time Academy Award-nominated actress and producer Mary J. Blige. Additional guest appearances included Kerry Washington, Lil Nas X, LL Cool J, Megan Thee Stallion, Michael Strahan, Morgan Freeman, Regina King, Paula Patton, Simu Liu, Tiffany Haddish, and Zendaya.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and creator of the 1619 Project was honored by the NAACP with the Social Justice Impact Award.  In her acceptance speech, she said, “As a student of history, I know that the work that I do and the life I live would not be possible without the decades-long efforts of the NAACP to force this country to live up to its highest ideals, I decided to use my pen as my weapon to fight”. 

She spoke about the current attack on Critical Race Theory saying, “As of now, some 36 states have passed or are considering bills to make it harder to teach about racism and inequality. Politicians are using the power of the state to whitewash an already whitewashed history. Books and ideas about the black experience, about the LGBTQ community, are being banned. These anti-history laws go hand in hand with regressive policies that aim to restrict our civil and voting rights. A healthy society does not ban ideas, and attacks on books are an attack on democracy.”

The live show followed the week-long NAACP Image Awards Virtual Experience, which invited fans to join the Image Awards in a celebration of the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color across more than 80 competitive categories – including the non-televised awards program, and a curated conversation series. Fans can relive all of the Image Awards moments from the week on and YouTube.

The 53rd NAACP Image Awards are presented by Wells Fargo and sponsored in part by AT&T Humanity of Connection, Google, T-Mobile, Bank of America, Gushers, FedEx, and Airbnb.

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