“The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, to invite whomever they choose,” the Magic Mike XXL star said in reference to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences nominating all white actors for the second consecutive year.
“And now I think that it is our responsibility now to make a change,” she continued. “Maybe it’s time to pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit that are just as good as the so-called mainstream ones.”
The NAACP Image Awards fulfill the vision Pinkett-Smith sets forth in her Facebook statement. The Image Awards have celebrated “outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts, as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors” since 1967.
There was an immense need for the Image Awards in the 1960’s. America was reckoning with the impact of Jim Crow laws on basic liberties, like using public restrooms, obtaining a quality education and accessing state-funded transportation. Simultaneously, black artists were shut out of mainstream awards ceremonies, like the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. Amid that turmoil, the Image Awards emerged to serve as a safe space for artists and activists. It was an opportunity to shine a reflection on ourselves when others deemed us unworthy of praise.
For almost 50 years, the Image Awards have continued this important legacy.
Films that are considered cultural touchstones, like The Color Purple, Boyz ‘n the Hood, Sister Act, Malcolm X, Waiting to Exhale, Soul Food, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and The Best Man earned Image Awards for Outstanding Motion Picture when they weren’t considered worthy of inclusion at the Academy Awards or were nominated but didn’t win.
Actors that are unrecognizable outside of black communities are greeted with respect and admiration at the Image Awards. Before Mo’Nique was an Academy Award-winning actress, she won four Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series awards for her role as Nikki Parker on UPN’s The Parkers. The acclaimed actress remembered the importance of that when she appeared on “Sway in the Morning” in July 2014.
“To me, it wasn’t the Oscar,” Mo’Nique explained. “For me, it was the Image Award because as a little girl who watched the Oscars, I didn’t see people who looked like me. So my dream never was getting an Oscar. But when I watched the Image Awards and I saw those women that looked like me getting called up on that stage, I said: ‘one day, baby, they gone call my name for that award.’ It was that award that made me feel like dreams do come true.”
Dreams are brought to fruition at the Image Awards. We are able to honor our own for what they’ve done and what they will do. In a time when black people are being killed with impunity by crazed vigilantes and police officers, we need our souls filled. The NAACP Image Awards continue to provide that nourishment.