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provided by the NAACP Image Awards media kit

55th NAACP Image Awards showcase Black excellence

This year's NAACP Image Awards platformed major names in the entertainment industry and acknowledged the global legacy and impact of Black artists. The event emphasized the treatment of Black actresses and the continuous pay gap that has prolonged for centuries. The 55th NAACP Image Awards set the tone for award shows by tastefully shedding light on important issues while maintaining a comedic, engaging style.

The show started with a bang with the entrance of its host, the legendary hip-hop and rap icon, Queen Latifah. In a comedic opener, Queen Latifah was given a special mission by special guest Vice President Kamala Harris to inform people about the importance of this year's election. 

This segued into one of the many impactful moments of the night. Queen Latifah and Taraji P. Henson called out Hollywood's unequal pay gap for Black actresses. 

In 2023, Henson called out the executive team behind "The Color Purple" and others in Hollywood for maltreatment of Black actresses and discussed her fight for equal pay and fair working conditions. 

"It's no secret we are facing some seriously pivotal issues — everyone is talking about inflation,“ Queen Latifah said during her opening monologue. "You know what's not feeling inflation?"

The cameras then cut to Henson, sitting with the audience, who said, "Equal pay for Black actresses."

After a grand applause from the audience, Queen Latifah said, "Thank you, Taraji, for standing up for all of us."

Queen Latifah then called for all the Black actresses in attendance to stand up and receive their deserved applause. This year's NAACP Image Awards showcased Black excellence in its purest form. 

Highlighted awards and speeches of the night 

Taraji P. Henson won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her role as Shug Avery in the musical-film adaptation of "The Color Purple." In her acceptance speech, Henson thanked her supporters for their unwavering support of her public stance against unfair treatment in Hollywood, along with their numbers at the box office. She urged the audience to speak up for themselves, even when it is scary.

"It's a scary thing to speak your truth," Henson said. "But I urge you all to speak your truth because, at the end of the day, that's all we have. And like they say, 'The truth will set you free.' And not only that, it will set somebody else free."

Fantasia Barrino gave one of the most powerful speeches of the night during her acceptance of the award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. She dedicated her win to the powerful, classy and elegant women who shaped her: her mother and grandmother. She also acknowledged her faith as the driving force in her career. She showed humility and confidence, demonstrating why she is such a well-respected name in the industry.

"My mother was a woman who went through many things,“ she said. "I saw her, after everything she went through, walk out as a queen with a smile on her face. She always kept God first and I will continue to do the same. This (award) does not make me, but I thank you for it." 

Usher went home with two major awards of the night, the President's Award and Entertainer of the Year. He was given the President's Award for his humanitarian contributions, including financial readiness programs for thousands of underprivileged youths to encourage their pursuits of further education. 

“It's not a hand-me-out, it's an opportunity,“ he said. "If I am recognized for that tonight, then it is God's plan. That is the legacy that I would rather be known for." 

New Edition, a trailblazing group in R&B, was honored as this year's NAACP Hall of Fame inductee. These men have paved the way for boy groups after them, a fact that New Kids on the Block member Donnie Wahlberg acknowledged in his speech before its collaboration performance in 2021 and while presenting the award to the R&B group. New Edition members Ronnie DeVoe and Michael Bivins gave a true testimony to the legacy of the NAACP Image Awards and the prestige of those who built the way for them and invested in New Editions' future. This group is still going strong after more than 40 years in the music industry. 

Many actors, actresses and entertainers were given deserved, earned accolades. Some include Quinta Brunson, who won Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, India Ria Amarteifio, who won Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series and Poet Amanda Gorman, who won the Chairman's Award.

The NAACP Image Awards were created to reward and acknowledge Black artists, entertainers, actors, actresses and creatives for their contributions in their fields. Many people felt Black creatives were snubbed by major award shows like the Oscars, either due to race or a general lack of understanding of entertainment that is not written from a Eurocentric perspective.

Needless to say, these awardees produced some of the best media of the year. Despite it no longer being Black History Month, Black excellence was displayed for all to witness by celebrating the legacy that the NAACP created. 


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