Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization.
It has grown so much that for the past couple of decades the NAACP, Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch has devoted a night of recognition honoring thespians among the best in the field of entertainment.
The branch also celebrates a three-day theatre festival, which provides a platform for thespians to express their craft and share their contributions with an audience of individuals who celebrate live theatre in Los Angeles.
The 24th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards took place Nov.17 at the historical Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. This year’s show was hosted by actress, Kym Whitley.
Five outstanding individuals were honored at the prestigious event.
Honorees of the night consisted of vocalist and six Grammy Award winner, Toni Braxton (Spirit Award); actor and director, Glynn Turman (Lifetime Achievement Award); actor, Roger Guenveur Smith (Trailblazer Award); president of Wells Fargo’s Government and Community Affairs, John Sotoodeh (President’s Award); and Regional President of Community Bank, Byron Reed (Community Service Award).
Ronald E Hasson, Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP President and National Board Member said, “I salute our honorees’ whose work not only portrays and supports positive images of our people, but also reclaims the images that have been lost to injustice and inequality.”
Although, the mission of the NAACP Theatre Awards is to entertain, inspire the community, and create diversity in the arts and entertainment industry. The most important mission of them all is to, educate. It is important to educate on the enriching African American culture.
Co-star of Being Mary Jane, Stephen Bishop had this to say about the importance of the NAACP and its mission.
“The NAACP to me is all about advancement, quality, and tradition. I think our group of people is an extremely talented group. A lot of times in the main stream we are not given as much credit for our abilities or exposure of our abilities. This is something that legitimizes everything,” Bishop said.
“It validates all the hard work that goes in and is ability for us to show each other the love we have for our work. It expands the knowledge and appreciation for our work by putting it out there,”
The star of The Eve of Jackie (tribute to Jackie Wilson) and opening act of the NAACP Theatre Awards, Chester Gregory shared that the NAACP means “everything” to him.
“The NAACP means everything to me. I am from Gary, Indiana, which is a city that is 90 percent black. It is great to be appreciated by everyone else, but NAACP is home. It represents my culture, my people, and my heritage. So, to be recognized by the NAACP is the greatest honor. You do this stuff all over the world, but your people at home are going to appreciate your showing of recognition,” said Gregory.
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Actress, Cocoa Brown jokingly admitted that she knew what NAACP meant before her ABC’s.
“The NAACP is history. I grew up in a home where my parents marched. I grew up knowing what the NAACP meant before my ABC’s.”
The NAACP Theater Awards is about black history. Theater is our unedited voice for our culture. We must continue to support our literary work and tell the story without any edits or change. It is our strength, unity, and leadership. The NAACP will and has been moving forward, upward and mobile by doing great things for the black community.
I am a recent graduate from the University of Central Missouri. I majored in Digital Media Production with an emphasis in news. My aspiration is to become a television Journalist.