Jay-Z and Beyoncé Headline Political 50th Annual NAACP Image Awards

Beyonce-Jay-Z-Getty-H 2019
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation

The show was hosted by Anthony Anderson, who was also the winner of the outstanding actor in a comedy series award for his performance on 'Black-ish.'

Jay-Z, Beyoncé, John Legend and Michael B. Jordan were all on hand Saturday night at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood for the 50th Annual NAACP Image Awards. The awards are intended to recognize the year’s best in music, film, television and literature.

The show was hosted by Anthony Anderson, who was also the winner of the outstanding actor in a comedy series award for his performance in Black-ish.

Although the Image Awards recognize the contributions of artists, politics were never far from anyone’s mind as the 2020 presidential election run ramps up.

Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) received loud rounds of applause every time her name was mentioned, and she was given a standing ovation when she took the stage to receive the NAACP Chairman’s Award. The chairwoman of the House Financial Services committee repeatedly told the audience that she “had the gavel and wasn’t afraid to use it!”

Presidential contenders Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) also made an appearance to speak about the importance of voting in the upcoming election.

Jay-Z was honored with the President’s Award, and Lena Waithe spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about what the rapper and business mogul means to the black community beyond being a performer.

“Jay-Z to me is hope. He’s light at the end of the tunnel. He’s proof that it can be done. He’s proof that if you’re born in the slums that doesn’t mean the slums are born in you and he’s showing everybody the way. ... I’m honored to be alive while he’s around making art, showing us how it's done and I really take a lot of notes watching him work,” Waithe said.

Of course, never one to be upstaged, Beyoncé was also honored as Entertainer of the Year. During her acceptance speech, she recognized all of her fellow nominees — LeBron James, Ryan Coogler, Regina King and Chadwick Boseman — for their contributions to advancing black culture.

Winston Duke has been on fire with starring roles in the mega-hits Black Panther and Us. He spoke to THR about why the Image Awards were more than just another awards show.

“We are standing in the shadow of all our forefathers and foremothers who pushed the needle forward and those people are demanding that we uphold our duty of moving the conversation forward. ... They fought and advocated for people to be on the producing and the creative side, so movies could be made like Black Panther and Moonlight and Us at full budgets to realize the vast imagination that is included in black artists," he said.

Producer and creator Courtney Kemp was a winner for the second year in a row when her hit Starz series Power was named outstanding drama series. She spoke to THR about why winning an Image Award was so important to her.

“It means everything. This is a part of my childhood. I grew up in a household where this was an event," Kemp explained. "This was a holiday when this came on. My parents were so reverent about what this organization was doing in their lifetime and so even though my dad is not here to see it, I’m so moved and I feel his presence because this was so much a part of who we are and what we represent.”

Some of the night’s other big winners included Taraji P. Henson for outstanding actress in a drama series for Empire, Black-ish for outstanding comedy series and Black Panther for outstanding motion picture.