Young Black Hollywood Championed at 50th NAACP Image Awards Luncheon

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Logan Browning

As older Hollywood continues to grapple with understanding how to implement diversity, young black Hollywood has clear visions for the future of the industry.

At the NAACP Image Awards Luncheon, young actors from critically acclaimed shows like This Is Us, Black-ish and Dear White People were outspoken about appreciating the efforts to get black and brown faces on screen. What they want to see next is normal characters who look like them.

Started in 1967, the NAACP Image Awards Luncheon is a place for nominees to meet and congratulate each other before the big night.

This year, the ceremony moved from January to March to “extend Black History Month,” according to luncheon host and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph. Actors, writers and musicians gathered Saturday in the ballroom of the Loews Hollywood Hotel to meet and take a class photo before reuniting at the end of the month for the actual awards.

Logan Browning, star of Netflix’s Dear White People, hopes to see progress incorporating real perspectives. “I’m interested in continuing to tell stories about women who are not perfect, who like stripping that from them,” said Browning. “And that's kind of something we take on as black women. If we mess up and we're failures and they push us to the side. But being OK with that as a young woman who was exploring her world — those are the stories I want to see.”

She also argues in favor of Netflix for its accessibility and commitment to diversity and inclusion. “There's always work to do, but I definitely think that we have amazing networks like Netflix who really don't see barriers when it comes to telling stories from different lenses," she said.

Niles Fitch, teenage Randall on This Is Us, wants more regular role models for young black and brown kids. “I would like to see more dark-skinned leading men and just movies in general where their skin color isn't a part of their character,” said Fitch. “And not only that, but romantic films where black man is loved and not just by somebody of a different race, but another dark woman. I'm just interested in seeing more black men as leading men, so it can be normalized.”

The 50th Image Awards comes at an important time, when the image of blackness has been set back. With R. Kelly and Michael Jackson accusers speaking out about horrendous criminal acts, to the endless scandals about blackface, to nominee Jussie Smollett being indicted on 16 felony counts, much of the good coming from the black community may seem to be overshadowed by the bad.

Without singling out Smollett, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson called for unity in the black community: “LGBT issues are black issues.” There haven't been any changes to Smollett’s Image Award nominee status after his recent indictments, he added.

The 50th NAACP Image Awards are set to air on TVOne live from the Dolby Theatre on March 30.