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A cold pouring rain wasn’t enough to keep celebrities such as Rihanna, Lizzo, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx away from the Pasadena Convention Center on Saturday afternoon, where dozens of stars turned out for the 51st annual NAACP Image Awards, recognizing the achievements of people of color in TV, music, literature and film and those who promote social justice through creative endeavors.
Anthony Anderson once again served as the awards ceremony’s host and was also a big winner as his series Black-ish dominated the TV awards, winning for best comedy series and scoring acting wins for stars Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Deon Cole and Marsai Martin.
Harold Perrineau won for best supporting actor in a drama series for his role on TNT’s Claws and he shared with The Hollywood Reporter why winning an Image Award was meaningful to him.
“It does mean a lot more for me because I fully believe that when you don’t accept yourself, no one else can accept you, so this award showed for me, it feels like us, me, accepting myself and saying, ‘Yes, you’re worthy.’ You don’t have to worry if the Oscars are so white or not. It doesn’t matter because here we are all celebrating each other,” he said.
The awards also took time to recognize the death of Kobe Bryant, by hanging his jersey on either side of the audience, placing a basketball hoop on stage and playing a recording of his Staples Center farewell speech from when he retired in 2016.
Yvette Nicole Brown was nominated for best writing in a motion picture for the feature film Always a Bridesmaid and she told THR why the awards were so important to her.
“Its always been an opportunity to see great fashion, great speakers, great art, just celebrated and its ours. There’s something about it belonging to us that just makes it really special,” Brown said. “Everything about blackness inspires me. I think that we are a resilient, powerful, loving people and the Image Awards just embodies everything that we are.”
Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis was honored with the Chairman’s Award and he spoke about the pain of growing up in a segregated society and his unending fight to bring equal rights to all Americans in his taped acceptance speech.
Rihanna received a standing ovation when she took the stage to receive the President’s Award for her philanthropic efforts, including raising millions of dollars for disaster relief, and she used her speech to call for unity in the country.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that we can fix this world together. We can’t do it divided. I cannot emphasize that enough. We can’t let the de-sensitivity seep in. The, ‘If it’s your problem, then it’s not mine; it’s a woman’s problem; it’s a black people problem; it’s a poor people problem.’”
The night’s other big winners included Lizzo, who won entertainer of the year; Just Mercy, which won for best film and for best actor and supporting actor for stars Jordan and Foxx, respectively; and Lupita Nyong’o, who won best actress for her role in Us.
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