A parade of prizes for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” an award for civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump and a standing ovation for freed WNBA phenom Brittney Griner and her wife were among the highlights of the 54th annual NAACP Image Awards, which took place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, on Saturday and was telecast on BET and simulcast on several other Paramount Global Networks-owned TV networks, including CBS, MTV, MTV2, VH1, BET Her, Logo, Paramount, CMT, Pop, Comedy Central, Smithsonian Channel, Pluto TV, and TV Land. Queen Latifah hosted.
Before the winners were announced, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was the top contender with the most nominations (12), and the movie was widely predicted to win the most awards. The NAACP Image Awards won by “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” were Outstanding Motion Picture; Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (for Angela Bassett); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (for Tenoch Huerta); Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture; Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (for Ryan Coogler); Outstanding Costume Design (for Ruth E. Carter); Outstanding Hairstyling (for Camille Friend); and Outstanding Soundtrack/Compilation Album. In a related victory, Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” (from the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” soundtrack) was awarded Outstanding Music Video/Visual Album, which is a prize that goes to the artist (Rihanna) and video director (Autumn Durald Arkapaw), not the makers of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
In his acceptance speech, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” director Coogler thanked the NAACP, the other nominees in the Outstanding Motion Picture category, his “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” colleagues, and his wife. He saved his “biggest thanks” for “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer in 2020, at the age of 43.
Although Coogler did not specifically name Boseman, he said of the late actor: “We lost a giant. He left a giant void in our hearts, but we gained an ancestor. And he’s with us every day, motivating us. I can’t think of anybody who’s done more to advance our image and our representation in recent years.”
Bassett, one of the ceremony’s biggest individual winners, received three prizes. In addition to her “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” award for her role as Queen Ramonda, Bassett was named Entertainer of the Year. Bassett also won the prize for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, for her role as Los Angeles Police Department patrol sergeant Athena Grant-Nash in Fox’s “9-1-1.”
In her acceptance speech for Entertainer of the Year, Bassett said, “You know, when I think about my career, I can’t help but reflect that oftentimes, when I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, there was often someone there who looked like me, with open arms, assuring me that there was a place for me as an actor.” She thanked Coogler for “showing us we are all royalty—and he built the crown for all of us to wear.”
ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” had nine nominations and won six prizes: Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (for Quinta Brunson); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (for Tyler James Williams); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (for Janelle James); Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series (for Brittani Nichols); and Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Television), for Brunson.
In her acceptance speech, Brunson thanked the other nominees, as well as other TV shows that inspired “Abbott Elementary.” She said, “There is nothing like winning an NAACP Award. … We’re happy that we get to make this show that is accessible to everyone, but for and by us.”
Starz’s “P-Valley” was nominated for six prizes and ended up winning three: Outstanding Drama Series; Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (for Loretta Devine); and Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (for Nicco Annan). The latter category was televised. Annan, who plays the flamboyant strip-club owner Uncle Clifford on “P-Valley,” said in his acceptance speech: “I want to dedicate this to every 40-, 50-, 60-, 70-year-old-plus [person] that did not have space to be themselves.” He also thanked “P-Valley” showrunner/creator Katori Hall, his family, God, his colleagues, and “all of you for loving this,” he said as he pointed to himself.
Peacock’s “The Best Man: The Final Chapters” had seven nominations and won three awards: Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special; Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special (for Morris Chestnut); and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special (for Nia Long). All three of these categories were not part of the televised ceremony.
Columbia Pictures’ action drama “The Woman King” won two prizes: Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (for Gina Prince-Bythewood) and Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture (for Viola Davis). The latter category was televised. Prince-Bythewood was featured in a pre-recorded “Direct Effect/Filmmaker” segment, where she talked about “The Woman King” and how the movie’s female-dominated cast was “a true sisterhood.” Regina King, who made her feature-film directorial debut with 2020’s “One Night in Miami…,” was featured in a separate pre-recorded “Direct Effect/Filmmaker” segment, where she said, “God put me here to tell more of our stories.”
In her acceptance speech, Davis mentioned her “Woman King” army leader character Nanisca expressing regret for “not being brave enough.” Davis added, “I never want to be not brave enough as a woman, as a Black woman, as an artist. I want to thank everyone who was involved in ‘The Woman King,’ because that was nothing but high-octane bravery.” She also thanked her family and other colleagues.
That wasn’t the only NAACP Image Award that Davis won this year. She also got a prize for her memoir, “Finding Me,” which won for Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction, a non-televised category. Another winner in the literary categories was the late actor Michael K. Williams’ memoir, “Scenes From My Life,” which won for Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography. Williams was 54 when he died of a drug overdose in 2021.
In the music categories, Beyoncé reigned supreme by winning the most awards: three out of her five nominations. Her prizes were for Outstanding Album (for “Renaissance”); Outstanding Soul/R&B Song (for “Cuff It”); and Outstanding Female Artist. Beyoncé did not attend the ceremony. All of the awards that she won were not part of the televised show.
In fact, there were no music categories at all in the televised ceremony. The closest things that the televised ceremony had to showcasing music was when host Queen Latifah opened the ceremony by singing part of Frank Sinatra’s “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” and when the show had a segment of compilation footage about hip-hop celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Other music winners included Chris Brown, who won two prizes: Outstanding Male Artist and Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Contemporary), for his collaboration with Wizkid on the song “Call Me Every Day.” Brown was on tour in Europe and did not attend the ceremony.
Another no-show was Will Smith, who won in the televised category of Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, for his starring role as a formerly enslaved man named Peter in Apple Studios’ “Emancipation.” Smith, who was a producer of “Emancipation,” was also a nominee for Outstanding Motion Picture.
The televised ceremony also gave a spotlight to honorees in non-competitive categories, where the honorees were selected by the NAACP and announced several days in advance of the show.
The Chairman’s Award was given to U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson, the Democratic congressman from Mississippi who chaired the United States House Select Committee investigating the U.S. Capitol attack of January 6, 2021. In his acceptance speech, Thompson said: “Our work is still undone. What you saw on January 6 was very real. What you see every day in Washington, [D.C.], and around the country, is real. … I also understand that there is clearly other work to be done.” Thompson thanked civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, and “all of the sheroes and heroes who go unsung. … The struggle continues.”
Married couple/activists Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union-Wade received the President’s Award. The celebrity spouses spoke passionately about how important it is for people to understand that LGBTQ+ rights are civil rights that should include everyone. Wade and Union-Wade mentioned their transgender daughter Zaya for being a great inspiration to them and others. Wade directly addressed Zaya on stage by saying that he admired “how gracefully you’ve taken on the public scrutiny.” He added, “I admire how you handle the ignorance in our world … that you face every day. To say that our village is proud of you is an understatement. … Thank you for showing the world what courage looks like.”
Union-Wade said, “Will we fight for some, or will we fight for all of our people?” She added, “Even as we demand equality at the top of our lungs, we consistently fail to extend our advocacy to protect some of our most vulnerable among us. Black trans people are being terrorized, targeted, and hunted in this country, every day and everywhere—and there’s barely a whisper about it. … This is a conversation worth having in ways that can actually build bridges, that don’t fan the flames of hatred and division.”
The Social Justice Impact Award was given to civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who got a standing ovation for after his speech. “I promise I will use this social justice award as a great incentive to fight against the legalized genocide of colored people, and vow never to stop fighting racism and discrimination when it rears its ugly head.”
Crump named iconic Black historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Thurgood Marshall, slain civil rights leader King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Shirley Chisolm, and John Lewis. Crump said, “They were not mere footnotes in the history books. They were the heroes!” He added, “We will not let elected officials exterminate our history, our literature, or our culture. … Black history is American history.”
The Jackie Robinson Sports Award went to Serena Williams, who thanked the NAACP and mentioned that she was “fangirling” at all the artists at the ceremony who had a big impact on her. She also said that it is a “real privilege” to be included with previous winners of the award. “Together, we are a team of trailblazers. And we represent what is possible when you truly believe in yourself, your potential, and follow your life and passion.”
Basketball star Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, got a standing ovation and were given a brief spotlight on stage. The couple thanked everyone who helped in the efforts to bring Griner back to the United States after being detained and convicted in Russia of drug smuggling charges from February to December last year. “Let’s keep fighting to bring home every American still detained overseas,” Griner said.
A complete list of nominees and winners can be found at the official NAACP Image Awards website.