By Lea Michelle Cash –
This promise was embedded in the hearts of freed slaves as they endeavored for opportunities to provide America to live up to its promise. We all have our heroes and sheroes. As a people of color, our remembrance of them can take different forms and celebrations.
Just as in 1965 when Bill Cosby broke the color barrier in television and became the first Black in a non-traditional role when he costarred in the network television series “I Spy” to 1968 when Diahann Carroll became the first Black woman to have her own television series in a non-stereotypical role in the weekly NBC series “Julia,” we have honored early achievements and cried at their remarkable success. In doing so, we have honored our ancestors and their challenge to hold America to its promise. As their children, we will never forget.
That is why on the extraordinary evening that the NAACP holds its annual event celebrating the outstanding achievement and performance of people of color in the arts, as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice in Film, Television, Music and Literature, Black Hollywood sparkles with radiance and glory as keepers of America’s Promise.
This year’s theme spoke volumes as the hosts Holly Robinson Peete and Wayne Brady greeted performers, presenters and honorees from LL Cool J to Phylicia Rashad to Halle Berry and Prince. The United States 18th Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, a Black woman who provides the best scientific information available on how to improve the health of our nation, and oversees the operational command of 6,500 uniformed health officers around the world to promote, protect and advance the health of the American people received the “NAACP Chairman Award”. Dr. Benjamin has a BS in chemistry; a MD degree; a MBA and eleven honorary doctorates. She is a keeper of America’s promise.
However, the night belonged to another keeper of America’s promise—General Colin L. Powell who received the NAACP highest honor the “President’s Award”. Along with General Powell’s countless awards and honors, he is the founder and Chairman Emeritus of the America’s Promise Alliance, dedicated to forging a strong and effective partnership alliance committed to seeing that children have the fundamental resource they need to succeed.
In between the main honors, paraded the colorful, wide variety of nominees for literature, television, movies and music. Their extraordinary achievement was played out boldly in a live telecast shown to millions around the world. Nominees that were fortunate to win the golden statute were humbled, emotional and graceful. A choked up Halle Berry backstage told the press, “I am a Black woman, and I now know that for the rest of my life, I will be looking for ways to celebrate and promote other Black women through producing.”
Tatyana Ali got emotional on stage and back stage. “It’s all too much” she said. “When I looked out in that audience and saw my mother, my sister, and Phylicia Rashad from my really early days on the Cosby show, I had a moment.” Tatyana won an Image Award for the best Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series—“The Young and the Restless.”
Other winners were Tyler Perry, Kimberly Elise, Willow, Samuel L. Jackson, Regina King, S. Epatha Merkerson, Denzel Washington, Vanessa Williams, Jill Scott and Terrance Howard to name a few. Best Outstanding News/Information went to TV’s “Unsung” and Best Outstanding Talk Series went to ABC’s “The View”.