By Dennis J. Freeman
Los Angeles-It is still okay to be black. Amid the backdrop of the celebratory and festive mood of the 42nd NAACP Image Awards, which saw Oscar winner Halle Berry make a stunning appearance in a navel-revealing dress and a surprise visit by Prince, a subtle message was sent out to the rest of Hollywood; black is still in.
After a virtual whiteout in just about all of the major awards shows, including the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards, the NAACP eradicated some of that pain by honoring some of the leading names in the film, television, music and literature industry.
Two of the notable names who were snubbed from the Golden Globe and Oscar lists were Berry and renowned director Tyler Perry.
Berry, despite rave reviews for her work in the racially-charged film, “Frankie & Alice,” didn’t meet the standards to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award or receive a nod for Oscar consideration. “Frankie & Alice” captured two NAACP Image Awards, with Berry winning in the category of outstanding actress in a motion picture.
Perry rebounded from the stiff-arm given to him by the film industry for his directorial work in “For Colored Girls” to earn three awards for the movie. “For Colored Girls” won for best picture, director and outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture (Kimberly Elise).
Berry, appearing backstage to speak with reporters after her big night, called “Frankie & Alice,” which is a film about a women struggling with personality disorders, a challenge for her.
“It’s a difficult film,” Berry said. “Everyone has their own story,” Berry said. “Every story is not going to be a story about a dying woman.”
Berry and Perry weren’t the only big winners. Jill Scott received two awards as did John Legend and The Roots.
Samuel L. Jackson (Mother and Child), Terrence Howard (Law & Order: Los Angeles, outstanding supporting actor), LL Cool J (NCIS: Los Angeles, outstanding actor in a drama series), Denzel Washington (Book of Eli, outstanding actor in a motion picture) and Vanessa (Desperate Housewives, outstanding actress in a comedy series), were also big winners on a night where the mood was light, festive and celebratory.
Besides the lovely Berry wooing the audience with her presence, the biggest name at this year’s Image Awards show was Gen. Colin L. Powell. Powell was in attendance to pick up the NAACP’s President’s Award.
However, everything was not all peaches and cream for the country’s oldest civil rights organization. Leading up to the Image Awards, the NAACP has come under assault for nominating artists such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Diddy Dirty Money, and B.O.B.
Even though they were nominated, none of those artists mentioned won an Image Award.
The big controversy swirling before the NACCP Image Award show went off is that these musical acts are known to produce musical content that are offensive, including routinely using sexually explicit and offensive lyrics, which are on the opposite end of the NAACP spectrum of the advancement for colored people.
Underscoring the recent controversy of the nominations of those artists is the fact they all commonly use the “N” word and often times address women as “bitches” and “whores,” glorify violence, misogyny, and drug use, according to a press release sent out by The Enough Is Enough Campaign for Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment.
Rev. Delman Coates, Organizer of the Enough Is Enough Campaign for Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment and Senior Pastor of the Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland, is incensed that the NAACP would honor these individuals.
“It is a complete outrage that the NAACP and some of this country’s largest corporations would endorse artists that degrade women, use the “N” word, and promote values that are antithetical to the goals and aspirations of most Americans,” Delman said in a released statement to the media. Lyrical content, not commercial success should be the standard by which such nominations and sponsorships are given.
“At a time when we have witnessed social and political progress in America, it is disheartening to see established civil rights organizations and leading American corporations promote some of the most stereotypical and offensive images and messages in the popular culture…These are not images that any respectable civil rights organization or responsible American corporation should endorse.”
NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, in a brief interview, said the challenges that lie ahead are still many for people of color. In an indirect way to the brewing storm about some of the nominations, Jealous added that NAACP Image Award recipients are the ones who actually reflect what the organization stand for.
“There are a lot of negatives about who we nominate, but people really need to focus on who actually gets the award,” Jealous said backstage of the NAACP Image Awards. “That reflects the value of our community.”
What is also reflective of the NAACP’s value is continuing its fights against polarizing forces such as structural racism, discrimination and political apathy. To offset those challenges Jealous said more young people have to be involved.
“We are the most incarcerated generation on the planet, the most murdered generation in the country,” Jealous said. “What I am saying to a generation of young people, we have to get involved and fight. The decisions about what your children are going to leave behind are being made right now.
“My family has belonged to the NAACP for six generations. The first four generations trained their kids to fight. The fifth generation said the battle is won. Kids do what their parents tell them to do. If you tell your kids, hey, you have to be involved; you’re 14…you can’t register to vote, but you can pick up a stack voter registration forms and get everybody in your neighborhood to vote, the kid will do it.”