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NAJEE’s NOTES: Image Awards show what diversity is about

The NAACP Image Awards shows how diversity should be celebrated and gets it right. This writer had an up close and personal view of the 47th NAACP Image Awards, which boasted an all-star list of winners and brought out the best of black excellence Feb. 5.

I had the opportunity to interview many of the stars who were in attendance. It was a big evening for ABC’s “Black-ish,” which dominated with 11 nominations and took home the award for outstanding comedy series, while the show’s leading stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson were named outstanding actress and actor.

Anderson, who hosted the award show, certainly didn’t miss the opportunity to take a jab at the Oscars for their lack of diversity and highlight the bevy of beautiful black stars in the room.

“Look at all of these beautiful shades of people in the audience,” Anderson said during a more serious moment following his comedic opening monologue, which addressed the same issue. “Hollywood needs to know that this is what diversity is supposed to look like.”

The night was a major moment for men like Michael B. Jordan, who took home the award for entertainer of the year and outstanding actor in a motion picture for his role in “Creed.”

“I used to sneak into the Image Awards, and now I’m standing here as the entertainer of the year, which is mind-blowing,” he said at the show.

Meanwhile, Fox’s hit show “Empire” won big for outstanding drama series. The show’s stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson were awarded outstanding actor and actress — and Henson also worked in powerful words during her acceptance speech.

“We don’t need to ask for acceptance from anyone,” she said. “We are enough.”

Other big wins for the night went to the stars of “Straight Outta Compton,” which took the outstanding motion picture prize, while actress Sanaa Lathan won best actress in a motion picture for her role in “The Perfect Guy.” As for non-acting categories, singer John Legend was honored with the prestigious NAACP President’s Award for his commitment to career and public service. During his speech, Legend praised young activists who carry on a similar mission.

“Despite the daunting problems, I am hopeful that our generation will demand and achieve radical change in our lifetime,” he said. The NAACP Chairman’s Award also recognized other individuals who are committed to public service and, for the first time ever, the award was given to eight recipients.

Among those awarded with the distinguished honor were the activist group Concerned Student Collective 1950 at the University of Missouri and actor Jussie Smollett. The winners made a powerful statement as they took to the stage to accept the award with their fists raised.

Other notable moments came from stars like Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, who both openly boycotted the Oscars, and attended The Image Awards ceremony in support of the show. Other stars included Kerry Washington, Shonda Rhimes, Gabrielle Union and Teyonah Parris.

Congratulations to the NAACP on putting together a first class awards program.

This writer also had a chance to attend the Feb. 8 annual Oscars nominees’ luncheon. No, I wasn’t an invited guest nor did I request a media credential to cover the event. I chose to help lead a protest outside the luncheon, which received national media coverage as we continue to hold the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences accountable and keep their feet to the fire.

Our protests and boycott of this year’s Oscars continues to be the talk of Hollywood. The academy president was quoted as saying that “This year we all know there’s an elephant in the room, I have asked the elephant to leave.”

Despite her wishes, there was no escaping the #OscarsSoWhite elephant.

Local civil rights groups the National Action Network, Project Islamic HOPE and other activists made their presence known outside the event’s venue, the Beverly Hilton, to protest at the fact that no actors of color were nominated for Hollywood’s most coveted honor for a second year in a row.

Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Tyrese Gibson are among the African American stars who have either signaled they would not be attending this year’s ceremony or called for a boycott. The Academy addressed the controversy by announcing a “sweeping series of substantive changes” to increase diversity among its members.  The protest of the Oscars’ will be held Feb. 28.

At 1 p.m. that day, at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to attend. Please spread the word and join us.

In what has to be one of the most cowardly acts ever in the city of Compton, A year-old baby was struck by bullets that were fired inside her home. The baby girl was named Autumn Johnson, and she later died at a hospital from a gunshot wound to her head. She was just a week past her first birthday.

I’m on my way to visit her parents and offer my support. I’ll report more on this next week.

Activist Vicky Lindsey and others community leaders will be holding a candlelight vigil in memory of Autumn Johnson Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. at 1714 E. Palmer in Compton.

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