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Morgan Freeman, Kumail Nanjiani and THR contributor Kareem Abdul Jabbar gathered to honor the excellence of black actors, writers and producers in the entertainment industry during the non-televised portion of the NAACP’s Image Awards.
The NAACP Image Awards held the first part of its annual event honoring outstanding people of color in the fields of film, television, music, and literature Sunday, and despite the non-televised nature of the event the stars were out in force.
Mary J. Blige, Morgan Freeman, Kumail Nanjiani, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jordan Peele and Bruno Mars were among the big names at the closed-to-media awards dinner held at the Pasadena Conference Center.
On the red carpet outside, a number of guests and nominees talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the importance of the Image Awards, which is now in its 49th edition.
Samira Wiley, who was nominated for her portrayal of Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale, told THR what made the Image Awards such a meaningful honor for her. “It’s something to get accolades and acknowledgements in this industry and that’s what we all want as actors and young performers, but to be able to receive that from my own community is just beyond, beyond.”
There was a sense of accomplishment and jubilation on the red carpet as attendees celebrated a year that saw a record number of television shows created by black producers, including ATL, Insecure, The Chi, Greenleaf and Power among several others.
Yvette Nicole Brown, who was nominated for her voiceover work on Elena of Avalor, saw the night as an opportunity to celebrate the success of black creators who were finally having a chance to tell their story.
“I think when you have like Insecure and ATL and Queen Sugar, and don’t just have black showrunners, they also have black directors and black directors of photography. They have black writers…. I think when you have black people writing about black people you get a richer taste of what we are and you get to see all the different versions of us. All of our flavors,” said Brown.
Jay Ellis, who won an Image Award for his performance on Insecure, shared with THR why it was important for people of all colors to make their voices heard.
“Nina Simone said that an artist’s job is to tell the story of their time, and I think that in the current climate we’re in politically, I think what we’re starting to see is a lot of people realizing that this is the time that we have to speak up and we have to tell these stories.”
While 10 winners will be announced during the televised portion of the awards Monday, almost 50 winners were announced during Sunday’s ceremony, including Kendrick Lamar, who won for best album, Tiffany Haddish, who won twice — once for her performance in Girl’s Trip and again for her voiceover work on The Legend of Chamberlain Heights — and Jordan Peele, who won best writer and director for Get Out.
The televised awards ceremony is set to be hosted by Anthony Anderson and will be broadcast Jan. 18 on TV One.