The 49th Annual NAACP Image Awards is, how they say in Hollywood, in the can. The awards show with the purpose of highlighting the very best in public service and the arts aired on Friday, February 6th, 2015 with the versatile comedian, actor–and in his own right–dancer, Anthony Anderson. This star-studded event was filled with such notables as media mogul Oprah Winfrey, justice department U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, noted actress Angela Basset, and the ever talented Lawrence Fishburne (and the never to be overlooked actress, Gina Torres). Award winning and award worthy films such as Selma, Belle, and Get On Up were acknowledged for the creative treasure they bring to our collective consciousness.
Above all of the applause, laughter, and appreciation for talent, skill, commitment, and creativity, a not-so-subtle message of self-empowerment, self-appreciation, and self-definition was delivered in the deceptive wrappings of humor. As with most award shows, the host begins with a monologue, a song, or perhaps opening which serves as the overture for what’s coming up. Most times, the opening can be self-serving or simply a spectacle to enjoy. This time, those in charge of the NAACP Image Awards felt a need to send an affirming message to the multitude of African American artists, writers, actors/actresses, directors, producers, and others involved in the wonderful world of entertainment.
Host Anthony Anderson delivered in his unique cadence and style a message to his peers regarding the Hollywood Snubification of African American films, actors, directors, etc. He begins his monologue (after telling his mother he loves her) with a definitive “So What!” These two words uttered on such a major platform was so attention grabbing that members in both the theatre and the viewing audience could not have imagined what was to come next. Anthony Anderson continued with “We got our own show…right?”, as if he both the conviction and responsibility to remind the audience that what many desire is right there before them and among them. Often times, when a people look for affirmation from someone else, they can easily forget that the strongest affirmation comes from inside, from those who know you best, and from those who are concerned for your best interest.
Now, a message like that is often difficult to deliver, especially when you only have about three minutes to do so. The writers of the show knew that the adage a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down was apropos and created a delectable-hip treat for the audience to suckle on. Anthony Anderson and his posse did a song-satire-and-dance number to the wildly popular Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars but his message wasn’t about asking the audience to “stop and wait a minute, to fill his cup and put some liquor in it”. Anderson observed, “Stop, wait a minute, look at this place with all this talent in it!” It is clear that the audience is grooved to the beat (just check out the cute Blackish kids) but more importantly, the message clearly resonated. Anthony Anderson did more than remind his peers and colleagues that acknowledgement from the major awarding bodies are not the end. “Forget them!” he shouts–I mean sings.
“Tonight he’s gonna give it to ya!
TV One’s gonna give it to ya!”
The piece de résistance is the closing line of the bar, “Stop beggin’ the man to give it to ya!”
Over the past several months, commentary about the relationship between Hollywood and African American artists has made its way to the media forefront. Comic/actor Chris rock wrote a scathing piece in the Hollywood Reporter (Here), as well as phenomenal actress Viola Davis’ comments on the lack of diversity in Hollywood during her acceptance speech at the Screen Actors Guild (Here). These are just two of the many voices over the decades addressing the issue in their own way.
Anthony Anderson’s message, though upbeat and funky, is downright important and necessary. It speaks to the second principle of Kwanzaa, Kujichagulia–that we should define ourselves, name ourselves, and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, and spoken for by others. When we as a people wholly understand that we will have truly gained the greatest prize. Don’t believe me…just watch!
If you missed it…take a listen!
Guy A. Sims is the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim. He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. BCEPressworks.com