As the 2016 awards season winds down, the conversation about diversity, prompted by the mostly white list of Oscar nominees, moves into overdrive. In fact, at Friday’s NAACP Image Awards, held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, the uplifting of minorities took center stage.
"Nominees with Attitude"
Opening the show, host Anthony Anderson impersonated the rap group N.W.A. tweaking their famous “Straight Outta Compton” track to discuss the snubbing of diversity by broader Hollywood. In it, he took a number of jabs, one being at the Oscar nomination of Sylvester Stallone for “Creed” while its leading man, Michael B. Jordan, and director Ryan Coogler got nothing.
“Listen, man, I don’t mean to sound cocky,” Anderson rapped. “But the movie’s called ‘Creed,’ not ‘Rocky.’ It ain’t a diss to Sly Stallone … put Coogler on.”
Throughout the rap, protest signs floated through the aisles with the words “#RecognitionMatters” and “An award is a terrible thing to waste” on them.
Intergenerational love en masse
When the legends of Hollywood verbally and visually pass the torch to the new generation, such moments cannot be taken for granted. When it’s done among minorities in the business, it shows the enduring unity and endearing connection they share in an industry where they must struggle for a level playing field. Thanks to the NAACP Image Awards we saw that, both on camera and off. When accepting her award for outstanding comedy actress, Tracee Ellis Ross (“black-ish”) talked about the beauty of women living in their freedom. She singled out “Jane the Virgin’s” Gina Rodriguez during the bit as the young Latina actress rejoiced at Ross’ acceptance speech. Rodriguez then shared the stage with “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington as they presented the best comedy actor award to Ross’ co-star Anderson.
During commercial breaks, celebrities in attendance would embrace one another. Ross bowed to Washington in the aisles. Veteran actress Loretta Devine also embraced and took pictures with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and Gabrielle Union.
Alice Smith in all her “Glory”
You don’t know who Alice Smith is. But you should. Her stirring rendition of John Legend and Common’s Oscar-winning track -- in a tribute to Legend who was honored that night -- brought goosebumps to a head and the audience to its feet. The song’s meaning, considering the socio-political landscape of the last year for people of color and the recent #OscarsSoWhite dust-up, paired with Smith’s passionate drawl made for one of the night’s best moments.
A fist full of power
In the past, the chair of the NAACP has recognized one person or organization who use their platform to create change. This year, that award went to eight entities, as selected by NAACP Chair Roslyn M. Brock. The list included “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, the University of Missouri’s Concerned Student 1950 Collective and Brittany “Bree” Newsome, the activist and filmmaker who scaled a flagpole and took down the Confederate flag outside the South Carolina Capitol.
The recipients appeared when a screen rose onstage, revealing them standing together with their fists thrust high in the air. The image brought the audience to its feet as a number of fists also shot up. They continued clapping well after the commercial break began.
Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.