When Samuel L. Jackson speaks, people listen.
A week after the much-talked about un-diverse Academy Awards telecast, the Oscarnominated actor was vocal at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards. He says he felt slighted as a Black male, and still doesn't understand why the awards show failed to at the very least, have more men of color up there on stage.
"So it's OK to have Halle and Jennifer and Oprah on the show, but you know, there are Black men in Hollywood too, that work, and we should' ve been represented onstage in some way. And hopefully they won't make that mistake again," Jackson lamented on the red carpet, moments before the show began. "I've been on the show a lot. It's just one of those years. I don't know [why they didn't call me]. I can't answer that question. If only I could."
The stark whiteness of the Academy Awards only put an exclamation point on why the NAACP Image Awards is still so very important. Jackson, and his fellow Hollywood cohorts, collectively nodded their heads as they celebrated the rich diversity that makes up Tinseltown.
"It's always important for young people to know that there's a viable place and we're viable and that this is a business that they can come into and hopefully have some sort of success and somebody will recognize them for it," Jackson said.
At this year's Image Awards, Tyler Perry was king. The writer-director took home top prizes for his TV show Tyler Perry's House of Payne and his film adaptation of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.
"There is nothing like having nine strong Black women holding you up," Perry said of the cast during the Image Awards ceremony.
Image Award nominee Vanessa Bell Calloway said that even though most people were buzzing about the lack of color at the Academy Awards, she wasn't shocked. "That was no different than it always is. That ain't nothing new. People act like that was the first time," she said. "Some years are better than others depending on what movies are in, but it's the same. It didn't shock me. We've seen that picture before."
Still, much work needs to be done.
"It's really plainly, very obvious that we need a collective; we need a pocket where we can be celebrated, we can be honored and where we can feel like the work that we do is recognized and just as important and integral to the story and the fabric of America and the world," said actress Aisha Hinds, who stars in the Image Award nominated series, Detroit 187.
"I think most recently just in watching all of the Oscar nominated movies, there was not an ounce of color in any of the Best Picture nominees. It kind of bled my spirit watching those movies and while some of them were really great stories, it still kind of bled my spirit not to be able to see an image that I could connect to on the screen. So it's great to just be here and be a part of a huge collective full of people that you can see yourself in their eyes."
Chandra Wilson is on one of the most diverse television casts of all time, Grey's Anatomy. Wilson said given the historical nature of the NAACP, honoring diversity isn't something that we can afford to set aside.
"We can't ever get to the point where we're like we don't have to worry about being honored, we don't have to worry about the recognition, we don't have to worry about the work that they do," she said.
"For the NAACP to then come together and say 'Alright there's some images out there that we need to make sure get some honor, get some recognition and get some …