Before the 2014 NAACP Image Awards officially kicked off, we were greeted by the sounds of Pharrell Williams’ upbeat hit single, “Happy” coupled with a slew of famous Black celebrities grinning and bopping. One of them, actress Tika Sumpter, asked us during that opening segment, “Can you feel the energy?” We could and it carried throughout the night. Of course, we didn’t necessarily need the cue to maintain the “happy” during the award show, though it was a nice touch.
Awards show host Anthony Anderson kept the energy going, noting off the bat that Blacks have “started at the bottom,” yet we haven’t stayed there — that we’ve only risen and will continue to. Anderson pointed to the recent cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue, which has never had that many shades of Blackness. Ever. Anthony’s jokes then shifted to the troubled white people of last year — Justin Bieber, Paula Deen, and Miley Cyrus.
Now, I agreed with Anthony when he said as far as Miley goes, “Stop twerking when you ain’t got nothing to twerk.” Still, I’m glad that as inclusive as the award’s show was in terms of guest and honorees, those types of celebrities only got a few seconds of our attention.
After all, this was a Black awards show, and after last year’s VMAs and AMAs, plus this year’s Golden Globes (at least until the very end) and Grammys, many of us were going to be happy for the simple fact that we were going to see ourselves. Well, to see ourselves not only at the event, but have the categories we’re most likely to be included in actually televised. The same goes for those Black entertainers who mainstream awards shows have snubbed, or at the very least, “overlooked.”
Say, Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer for their roles in “Fruitvale Station,“Oprah Winfrey for her work in “The Butler,” Regina King in anything, or even mini-Millie Jackson, rising R&B star K. Michelle, who has publicly complained about being slighted for nominations despite recent accolades.
As Lupita Nyong’o, who won in the supporting actress category for her role in “12 Years A Slave” explained during her acceptance speech, “It’s been a historical year in film for all of us in this room, and I’m so proud to be a part of that history. It’s such an honor to be recognized for a film that has meant so much to so many people, a film that has inspired discourse long overdue.”
While accepting the award for Best Drama with the rest of the “Scandal” cast, Kerry Washington quoted Shonda Rhimes (via text message, who “had to be with my babies”), who noted that for every successful show with a Black lead, it creates opportunities for another and another and another and another.
And during a tribute to Nelson Mandela, Oprah kept both the spirit of Mandela and the mission of the NAACP in mind by reminding the audience, ”By offering our lives and service to others we do that. We can each reflect – I do believe – the greatness he inspired in all of us.”
It was a lovely night full of brilliant and beautiful Black people honoring each other … and some of our white friends. Which reminds me: I probably wouldn’t have given Robin Thicke an award for “Blurred Lines.” I mean, I’m sure Marvin Gaye’s ghost continues to have beef. But, hey, congratulations, Robin, and to everyone involved with last night’s show.
In case you missed the broadcast, TV One will be hosting an encore presentation on Thursday, February 27 at 8/7 Central.