The American Black Film Festival Honors were handed out at the Beverly Hilton Sunday night. Honorees included director Ava DuVernay (Industry Visionary Award), legendary actor Billy Dee Williams (Hollywood Legacy Award), comedian and Girl’s Trip breakout Tiffany Haddish (Rising Star Award), Power star Omari Hardwick (Distinguished ABFF Alumni Award).
“I can tell you that my journey hasn’t always been smooth but ultimately a positive one,” said an emotional Willians while accepting his award. “If on that journey I have helped pave just a little bit of a way for Black talent… that will have more opportunities today than yesterday, then I can say that has been the greatest role of my lifetime.”
DuVernay, who got her start at ABFF, thanked founder Jeff Friday “for putting in good work for Black filmmakers in the independent space.” The director who is gearing up for the wide release of her Disney epic adventure film, Wrinkle In Time also gave props to Williams for his work in the sci-fi space with films like Return of the Jedi and Alien Intruder. “He broke boundaries that no one ever thought could be broken so I thank you”
Hosted by Cedric The Entertainer, the event also reunited the cast of Fox’s 90s sitcom Martin to accept the Classic Television Award. Titular star Martin Lawrence was accompanied by co-stars Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Carl Payne II, and showrunner Bentley Kyle Evans, all of whom remained mum on a possible reboot. “I know yall want to know about the #reboot but for us, the most important thing is the #reconnection,” said Arnold.
Other winners included ABC’s Black-ish and HBO’s Insecure in a tie for the award for comedy Television Show of the Year, while Queen Sugar (OWN) picked up the drama Television Show of the Year award for the second year in a row.
The marquee Movie of the Year trophy went to Jordan Peele’s blockbuster hit Get Out, which Peele was on hand to accept, joined by cast members Lil Rel Howery, Betty Gabriel, and Marcus Henderson.
“People ask me if I was surprised at the timing [of the film]. Referring to the fact that we are living in a country of heightened racism. This is the exact same country we have always been living in,” said Peele. “All these sentiments, hatred, and bigotry has been there, though sometimes it’s just a little bit under the surface. I feel honored to be a part of this renaissance.”