“Black Panther,” the cultural phenomenon from Marvel Studios, swept the NAACP Image Awards by taking home six trophies, including best picture, director and ensemble.
Director Ryan Coogler and much of the cast of the 2018 blockbuster took the stage late Saturday at the Dolby Theatre to accept the outstanding motion picture trophy.
“The power of this moment to us really feels like the power of Pan-Africanism,” said co-star Danai Gurira. “The beauty of this project is that we as a diaspora made this film successful, and we’re just getting started.”
That sentiment was echoed throughout much of the evening. On the red carpet of the Image Awards, which marked this year's 50th anniversary, costar Winston Duke celebrated what the success of “Panther” as well as his latest film, Jordan Peele’s "Us," means for representation in Hollywood.
"We are challenging all the narratives that say our movies don't make money overseas and they don't translate into diverse audiences," he said. "We're also changing a genre where we're the first casualties. And we're begging audiences to question what else can become casualties. Constructs like racism, the American dream, the patriarchy … those things can get beaten up and killed and still lend itself to a very powerful story."
Duke's "Panther" costar Chadwick Boseman took home the first award of the night, winning outstanding actor in a motion picture for his role as King T'Challa in the movie.
"Black people always thank God when they win, and I'm not gon’ let you down," he said, also thanking Coogler in his speech. "My director, you are a genius."
Letitia Wright, who plays T'Challa's teenage sister, Shuri, in the film, won the award for breakthrough performance in a motion picture. "Wow, I didn't expect this at all," she said. "I just want to say a massive thank you for all of the support."
Another big winner of the night was "black-ish," with stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson both taking home acting in a comedy series awards for their roles, marking his 14th nomination and fifth win in the category and her 17th nod and eighth win. Anderson brought his mother onstage with him during his acceptance speech. The show also won the award for comedy series.
Before announcing the nominees in the category, presenter Chris Rock couldn't stop himself from making jokes about Jussie Smollett, the “Empire” actor recently embroiled in a Chicago attack case.
"I guess I gotta present an award," he began. "They said no Jussie Smollett jokes. What a waste of light skin, you know? You know what I could do with that light skin, that curly hair? My career would be out of here. I'd be running Hollywood."
"What the hell was he thinking?" he went on. "You're Jessie from now on. You don't even get the 'U' no more. That 'U' was respect, you ain't getting no respect from me."
In the cast's acceptance speech, Yara Shahidi countered Rock, saying: "I stand with Jussie," before passing the mike on to her costars.
The chairman's award went to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), who had a message for the "haters" who've made death threats against her and her family. "I've had four of them convicted," she said. "If you come for me, I'm coming for you. I have the gavel and I'm not afraid to use it."
Jay-Z received the president's award, thanking his mom and his grandmother, Hattie White, in his speech. "Thank you, guys, thank you to NAACP for allowing me to forward this so she can put this on her mantel next to her favorite grandson," he said of his 93-year-old grandmother. "And then when she's sneaking pork and her legs swell up, she can remember how much of a G she is."