The 34th NAACP Image Awards Celebration and "Image-a-Nation"

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Entertainment history was made on March 24, 2002, when Denzel Washington and Halle Berry became the first African Americans to walk away with Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars on the same night. Berry was the first African American ever to win an Academy Award for best actress. Washington was the second Black man to win for Best Actor; the first was Sidney Poitier in 1963.

Washington and Berry might be able to round out the year with another victory. Both are among the nominees for the 34th NAACP Image Awards, announced during a Los Angeles press conference on Dec. 5.

Conceived by Sammy Davis Jr. in 1962, the Image Awards recognize performers and artistic projects that both reflect positively on and provide opportunities for people of color in the entertainment industry.

This year's awards show is themed Image-a-Nation. Vic Bullock is the executive director of the NAACP's Hollywood bureau. According to Bullock, Image-aNation speaks to issues that have become especially salient in postSept. 11 America.

Image-a-Nation will explore how we view ourselves and our country and the world, explains Bulluck, who also oversees the Image Awards. Bulluck has been a part of the show since it was first televised in 1986, and for the past five years has served as one of its producers.

Image-a-Nation is about imagining a world where diverse people all live in harmony, elaborates Image Awards Chairman Charles Whitehead, where all the things that hampered African Americans in the past were in the past, were nonexistent.

This year's awards will reflect this theme across 35 categories encompassing film, television, literature and music. In addition, the awards will honor the individual winners of the President's and Chairman's Awards, special prizes whose recipients are handpicked by NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume and Chairman Julian Bond.

The winners of these prizes will be announced Feb. 1 The identity of the host of this year's Image Awards will also be announced at that time. Comedian Chris Tucker has served as host for the past two years.

There are some familiar faces among the nominees. Cosby Show alum Keshia Knight Pulliam is up for Outstanding Performance in a

Youth/Children's Series or Special for her role in UPN's What About Your Friends. Former Homicide star Andre Braugher was nominated for his performance in Showtime's program about the Pullman porters, 10,000 Black Men Named George. Forrest Gump's Mykelti Williamson's role on Boomtown won him a nod in the Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series category.

Singer/songwriter India.Arie was recognized for a second year with nominations in the Outstanding Music Video, Song, Duo or Group, Female Artist and Album categories. …