Diversity Debate Underscores 2016 NAACP Image Awards As Oscar Snubs Win Big

The 47th annual NAACP Image Awards went right to where the Academy Awards chose not to go, honoring two of this year’s most notorious Oscar snubs with top honors tonight. Creed was the clear winner, taking home wins for best actor (Michael B. Jordan), Best Director (Ryan Coogler), Best Supporting Actress (Phylicia Rashad), and Best Writing. That’s one for every category in which it was nominated. Sweeting the Creed success, Jordan earned the coveted Entertainer Of The Year title. “When the pubic starts to take notice it’s satisfying… I’m actually at a loss for words,”  a visibly elated Jordan said about his win.

The event kicked off tonight in Pasadena, California at the Civic Auditorium as NAACP honored outstanding people of color in art and entertainment from film and television as well as books and music. For the third year in a row, Blackish star Anthony Anderson hosted, with winners were announced tonight as well as last night in a separate ceremony.

Tonight’s ceremony was notable taking place as it does with the conversation about diversity – or the lack of it – in Hollywood reaching a fever pitch. Unsurprisingly that conversation was very much on the minds of the stars in attendance. Anderson was all comedy in his monologue, but he did nod frequently to the debate, for instance by wearing a hat referencing Compton that read “nominees with attitude”. He also joked that people shouldn’t be so zealous in battling the #oscarssowhite situation that they end up nominating “Madea Goes Trick or Treating in Compton” for Best Picture. Big laughs for that joke by the way.

He rapped about the snubs, saying “Listen, y’all, I don’t mean to sound cocky, but the movie’s called ‘Creed,’ not ‘Rocky,” a nod to Stallone’s nomination at the Oscars. But later, he got a little serious. “Hollywood needs to know that this is what diversity is supposed to look like,” Anderson said.

The award show also honored musician John Legend with the President’s award. After a moving performance of his smash hit “All Of Me,” Legend gave a compelling speech about social justice saying “fighting for justice isn’t an act of hate but an act of love. So let’s spread the love.”

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks himself noted backstage that the Image awards “Are more important then ever before… its not about who ignores us.. but how we recognize ourselves”

Meanwhile, Best Picture went to fellow-snubee Straight Outta Compton, whose team declined to address the aforementioned issue backstage. O’Shae Jackson Jr. also snagged the supporting actor award for the portrayal of his dad Ice Cube in the film. When asked to sum up his Image awards experience with one of his dad’s famous song, Jackson replied ‘Today Was A Good Day” which was an obvious set up.

On the TV side, Black-ish cleaned up taking home six out of the seven categories nominated including Outstanding TV Comedy and lead acting awards for Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. The Empire cast was also in attendance and picked up awards for Best TV Drama. Creator Lee Daniels addressed the diversity issue backstage saying “We need the opportunity… the Oscars are secondary. I’ve always made my opportunity… I don’t wait for people to give it to me.”

  1. I feel like the message of segregation is being driven home so much lately. I’m starting to feel a remarkable amount of animosity toward whites and I find it really disheartening because everyone I know believes we need more diversity, not segregation but films that represent our diverse culture as Americans, including blacks, Hispanics and Asians with whites. Black people should not be forced to do (write/act/direct) black only films because they feel they need to, and I feel that if Hollywood is only seeing the color green, they are being shortsighted because blacks in movies do play internationally, as evidenced by Star Wars. I just hope that the black Americans out there and POC in general understand that there are many of us who recognize where it needs to start and we do care. We are going to fight this and let you know that our POC are appreciated.

    1. It’s a valid and complex question, as spearheaded by the Coens recently, whether creative process of movies starting at the writing and casting levels are unconscious segregation, fear of bending to conservative markets, or conscious artistic choices (indicative of very definitive world views, like a rorschach.) .

    2. I know you’ve got an agenda to push 24/7 but let’s be honest. 99% of those who are going to see Star Wars aren’t going to see it because of some unknown black British actor playing one of the new leads. They’re going because it’s Star Wars! They could have cast a white kid or even a dog in the role and the box office would be no different than it is.

  2. No one denies the Image Awards principally put forward talents whose access to mainstream awards is limited at best. Yet as chairman Brock is quick to point out, not being African-American is no disqualifier for Image Award consideration. Artists of Hispanic (Rita Moreno; America Ferrera) and South Asian (Mindy Kaling; Aziz Ansari) descent have competed, likewise white actors (Bryce Dallas Howard) and R&B headliners (Justin Timberlake). This year, in the writing categories alone, white scribes like Shem Bitterman, Pete Docter and Jill Soloway are in contention, albeit for projects of more than casual minority interest and subject matter as per the NAACP’s overall mission.

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