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An Evening at the 43rd NAACP Image Awards

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By Lea Michelle Cash –

The winners of the 43rd NAACP Image Awards were recently announced during a live two-hour (tape-delayed) broadcast at the historical Shrine Auditorium. The entire auditorium was packed with a rainbow colored people to honor our nation’s premier multi-cultural award show that celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in the field of television, music, literature, film and promoters of social injustice through creative endeavors.

The special affair filled with glitter and sparkle, created an atmosphere so beautiful that happiness was radiating everywhere. What made this so very special—is that the NAACP is on a strict budget, hit by hard economic times like many organizations in our country. Therefore, the grandiose tinsel and glam was gone—but the grandstand of intimacy and uniqueness of Black people gathering to celebrate their own with joy and love was present and priceless—it dazzled the eyes and warmed the heart.

Many of the greatest names in film, television, and music appeared as presenters, or provided a musical performance. The Image Award nominees and winners were gracious and allowed the media like a cyclone, in full force to tug at them, pull them in a million directions, to take countless photos, and answer a thousand questions that never seemed to end. Just imagine.

The glorious chaos—it was beautiful.

There were several highlighting events during the telecast and behind the scene. First, when the Tuskegee Airmen walked down the red carpet, the entire carpet exploded. The aviators came with a large entourage of family members, and they all walked -- some with canes or rolled in wheelchairs down the red carpet—gloriously! This era is truly the moment in time for America’s first all-Black aerial combat unit. During the telecast, the Airmen (all elderly) struggled to stand, yet they did with honor, and received their standing ovation.

George Lucas, received one of the highest honors of the evening—the Vanguard Award, for perseverance making a film inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen’s historic and heroic acts.

Samuel L. Jackson did Lucas’ presentation. The Black Stuntmen’s Association was honored with the President’s Award. They were introduced and presented their awards by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. On June 24, 2010, the California Legislature honored them at the State Capital. San Bernardino County’s own, 62nd District Assembly member Wilmer Amina Carter was present. Her picture with the stuntmen and other representatives is featured in the 43rd Image Award souvenir journal.

Then there was the highest of all honors—the Chairman’s Award. This prestigious award was presented to Cathy Hughes, the Founder and Chairman of Radio One, Inc., the nation’s largest African American owned and operated broadcast company in the nation. It is also the parent corporation of TV One. Radio One is now a public company, making Hughes the first and only African American woman to chair a publicly held corporation.

On stage, Yolanda Adams lit up the auditorium with her gospel musical performance of “I Love the Lord” in tribute to Whitney Houston. People backstage and in the audience began to drop tears. Time stood still, and all you could hear was Adam’s powerful voice and the gospel choir that backed her. Backstage, standing shoulder to shoulder were Laurence Fishburne and LL Cool J watching the TV monitor as Adams sang her heart out. When Adams concluded, the noise in the room returned to its high pitch levels—with praise to God, endless applause (coupled with the applause) filling the historic Shrine Auditorium.

Other honorees to receive awards were Nick Cannon, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Keisha Knight Pulliam, Regina King, James Pickens Jr., Archie Panjabi, Emerson Brooks, Diggy Simmons, George Benson, Sounds of Blackness, Jennifer Hudson, Hill Harper, Harry Belafonte, T. D. Jakes, Jeff Burlingame, and Mike Epps. The Movie “The Help” won Outstanding Motion Picture and “Pariah” won “Outstanding Independent Motion Picture”. “Oprah’s Life Class” won Outstanding Talk Series, and “Dancing with the Stars” won Outstanding Reality Series. “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” won Outstanding Comedy Series, and “Law & Order: Special Victims Units” won Outstanding Drama Series.

In remembering a statement that director Steven Spielberg said at the 2000 NAACP Image Awards, “there’s a lot to be done in the world we share. We still must acknowledge the painful absence of racial diversity within our own industry,” this evening telecast in front of the camera and behind the cameras did reflect that the process is growing and evolving.

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