In wake of the overtly political Golden Globes, ongoing allegations of sexual impropriety in Hollywood and just days after the president's infamous "shithole" comment, the 49th NAACP Image Awards provided a platform to focus on black pride and empowerment.
Host Anthony Anderson opened the show with a nod to the Globes, calling the Image Awards "Oprah for president headquarters."
"Can you believe Oprah's speech? Now that's what you call a 'stable genius,'" he said in reference to Winfrey's rousing Globes acceptance speech for her Cecil B. DeMille Award. "I know Donald Trump calls himself one, but I think it would be best if we just locked him up … in a stable."
Held on Martin Luther King Day, the show saw several presenters and winners directly mention King in their remarks, including Anderson in his opening monologue.
"Our new air date tonight on Dr. King Day builds upon the show's great tradition as a night of hope and pride, honoring our history and those that make history," he said.
Immediately after Anderson's monologue, six Hollywood women took to the stage for a special #TimesUp presentation: actresses Kerry Washington, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lena Waithe, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Laverne Cox and director Angela Robinson urged the audience to "shift the balance of power" by voting in this year's coming midterm elections.
"Everyone knows that when we show up, we make change," said Smollett-Bell. "But we can't do it alone," said Robinson.
During the commercial break, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) introduced the audience to her guest Esaw Garner, the mother of the late Eric Garner, who was killed by police in 2014.
"This is my friend, and she's here from New York," said Waters. "And we're fighters and we appreciate Martin Luther King Jr. and all that he's done, but we're gonna impeach Trump."
Actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover, who received the President's Award, opened his speech by acknowledging the 50th anniversary of King's assassination before making a statement that seemed to be directed at President Trump's insult last week.
"In proclaiming this decade, we are recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be protected and honored," he said. "James Baldwin stated that when we cannot tell ourselves the truth about our past, we become trapped in it. This is especially true about race in America."
Andra Day performed a haunting rendition of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" as the screen behind her displayed the names and hometowns of lynching victims. Afterward, she was joined onstage by Common to perform "Stand Up for Something" — an original song from the Image award-nominated film “Marshall” — with images of King and the Black Lives Matter movement projected on-screen. Visibly moved, the audience rose during the final notes of the song.
ABC sit-com "black-ish" was a big winner of the night, taking home awards for comedy series, actress in a comedy series for Ross and actor in a comedy series for Anderson. The series has dominated each of those categories for four years running.
Starz serial show "Power" triumphed in the drama series category for the first time after two previous nominations, and leading man Omari Hardwick took home the actor in a drama series award.
On the film side, “Get Out” breakout star Daniel Kaluuya beat 17-time winner Denzel Washington for the outstanding actor in a motion picture award, after telling The Times on the red carpet that "it's factual that Denzel is the best actor in the world."
"I don't think I'm allowed to do stuff like that," he said. "I don't think anyone's allowed to, so if it happens, there would have to be a revote. It would be very fitting for the time that we're in."
Taraji P. Henson won the award for actress in a drama series for her role on “Empire,” but was not present to accept the award. Ditto Octavia Spencer, who won for actress in a motion picture for the Fox Searchlight release “Gifted.”
The surprise hit comedy “Girls Trip” pulled something of an upset in the top motion picture category, beating out “Get Out,” “Detroit,” “Marshall” and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
“Girls Trip” producer Will Packer returned to the ongoing Trump theme in his acceptance speech. "Sisters, especially the ones from Haiti and Africa, we love you as your brothers," he said, and dedicated the win to the film’s female ensemble — Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Director Ava DuVernay won the entertainer of the year award, thanking her peers (including Waithe, Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris, Donald Glover, Courtney Kemp and Lee Daniels) for their contributions in a speech that moved the audience both to tears and to their feet.
"This is our time," she said. "We can say we were here when all this gorgeous art was happening, that we lifted each other up, that we did as Dr. King said he would do: live the dream. We're the dream."
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