Putting Social Justice on the Arts Agenda

By Saval, Malina | Variety, February 3, 2015 | Go to article overview

Putting Social Justice on the Arts Agenda


Saval, Malina, Variety


Founded in 1967 at the height of the civil-rights movement, the NAACP Image Awards has worked feverishly over the past five decades to fete the artistic achievements of people of color and promote social justice through the arts, boosting the number of minorities working in the entertainment industry and helping to create a diverse media landscape with opportunities for people of all races, cultures and creeds.

This year's Feb. 6 ceremony, which falls during a period of heated racial tension in America and around the world - the Ferguson trial and death of Eric Garner at the hands of N.Y. police both prompted a firestorm of international debates; the terrorist attacks in France kicked off more protests - is arguably the most symbolically important one in years.

"In the year since Ferguson and France, between the horrific examples of racism and anti-Semitism, to have this program which connects the arts and advocacy and assembles together people who are talented and crafting a world of possibilities from imagination inspires those of us who are justice seekers," says NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, who was selected for the post in May. "If we can be creative and collaborative artistically, then we can do the same when it comes to our economy and our social justice system."

The 46th annual event, which will be broadcast live on TV One, will take place again at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium with "Black-ish" star and executive producer Anthony Anderson as host and a slate of nominees that includes "Selma" (motion picture), David Oyelowo (actor in a motion picture, "Selma"), Gugu MbathaRaw (actress in a motion picture, "Belle") and ABC's freshman hit "Black-ish" (comedy series). Former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder will receive the NAACP Chairman's Award and music mogul Clive Davis will receive this year's Vanguard Award. Writer-director Spike Lee will be honored with the President's Award.

"Spike's genre of movies speaks to race relations in America, both at its worst and at its best," says NAACP chair Roslyn M. Brock. "(His films) have a cultural sensitivity that meets us at every level and causes us to confront these issues."

"There's no question that the last year is a constant reminder of how vigilant everybody has got to be," adds Davis. "For now, and in the future, you can never just sit back and sit on the progress that's been made. That's not enough - it's got to be total equality."

Brock stresses that the goal of the awards is not to marginalize members of any one particular race or ethnicity, but to find ways to bridge the cultural and sociological gaps that divide us all through the celebration of art and culture.

"African-Americans and people of color watch all genres of TV and movies and can appreciate the artistic value that each of them brings," says Brock.

"That's what we would hope all communities would do - look at the artistic value of the directing, lighting and cinematography that happens on the big screen and the small screen. …

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