The 49th Annual NAACP Image Awards took place on January 15, 2018 in Pasadena, CA. The live show aired on TVOne and was hosted by 4-time NAACP Image Award Winner and star of ABC’s “Black-ish,” Anthony Anderson.
Ava DuVernay, left, accepts the award for the entertainer of the year as Mary J. Blige looks on at the 49th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
This is first time the awards show, which honors outstanding people of color in film, television, music and literature, held the event on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. “The NAACP is proud to air our “49th Image Awards” telecast on the nation’s most significant civil rights day of the year celebrating the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” NAACP National Board of Directors Chairman Leon W. Russell said in a statement.
Dr. King’s legacy was prominent throughout the award show as surviving members of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers strike were honored with the ‘Vanguard Award’. The strike began in February 1968 and was sparked by the deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker after being crushed by garbage compactors. The strike sparked national attention, leading both the NAACP and Martin Luther King, Jr. to join in the effort.
His legacy also shone through as both Charlie Wilson and Danny Glover were honored for their contributions to charity and social justice with the Music Makes a Difference Award and the President’s Award, respectively.
There was also an importance placed on voting, particularly for 2018 Midterm elections. While Anderson poked fun of politics specifically naming President Donald Trump and former White House political aide Omarosa Manigault; the powerful #TimesUp speech given by several actresses including Jurnee Smolett-Bell and Angela Robinson, urged people to vote in the upcoming elections. “The midterms are a perfect moment for us to use our voices,” Robinson said. “If we can take back a seat in Alabama…”
“Then we have the ability to shift the imbalance of power,” Smolett-Bell concluded.