You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NAACP Image Awards Preview: How Will Big Changes Affect This Year’s Winners?

The NAACP Image Awards is undergoing some major changes this year in an effort to remain relevant and contemporary.

Organizers moved up the ceremony, in its 49th incarnation, to take place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January instead of during Black History Month or in March when it has previously taken place.

And for the first time in the Image Awards’ history, everyday fans have been allowed to vote for their favorite nominees in 36 categories spanning film, television and music. The show will air live on TV One, as it has since 2014, with “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson returning as host.

Of the two alterations, the decision to align with the MLK holiday is the most organic and pragmatic.

“With the Super Bowl, Winter Olympics, NBA All-Star Game and other award shows, February became a very crowded month in terms of television broadcasting,” says Leonard James III, committee chairman of the NAACP Image Awards. “We looked at what we could do to create a timeslot that would be associated with the NAACP and that became Monday, Jan. 15, the King holiday.”

The diverse offering has bounced around all over the calendar throughout the years. During a 10-year span starting in 1980, the Image Awards took place in December. There were even a couple of years when the ceremony occurred in April. The awards show didn’t land on TV until 1994 when Fox aired it, and even then, the first live broadcast didn’t take place until 2007.

“What better way to allow our country to end a day of celebration and service honoring Dr. King than to tune in to the NAACP Image Awards?” James says. “It was a natural choice.”

While this year’s ceremony might feel rushed to some, many applaud the NAACP for choosing a day with greater meaning.

“Moving the awards up to a holiday that is focused on civil rights and the breaking down of prejudice against people of color makes sense,” says Eric Deggans,
NPR TV critic and author of “Race Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation.”

“At its heart, the Image Awards were conceived as a way to honor people of color who were overlooked by white-dominated, mainstream entertainment awards,” Deggans adds. “So announcing winners on a day celebrating a civil-rights leader who fought for racial equality in all areas of American life seems apt.”

“Ghostbusters” star Ernie Hudson, nominated in the supporting actor in a comedy series category for his role on Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” agrees.

“Martin Luther King led the drive thoroughly and consistently to pioneer opportunities; we’re following up on that by achieving excellence in film, television, music and literature,” Hudson says. “It’s fitting that the Image Awards are now being held on Martin Luther King Day.”

The timing also helps to position the NAACP as a trailblazer when it comes to awarding those who are worthy, but possibly overlooked, Deggans says.

“The winners will be announced too late to affect voting on the nominees, but in plenty of time to call attention to possible winners Oscar voters might not have considered so strongly,” he says. “By announcing winners before the Oscar nominees are announced, perhaps they’ll get a little more attention from the press. It seems like a worthwhile experiment, at least.”

Several factors played a part in the kudoscast’s shift to predominantly open voting, including TV ratings and new members of the organization, James says.

“We had an entertainer of the year category that the general public voted on,” he says. “Out of that came a lot of input from general public voters who wondered how they could be more involved and have more participation. Many who voted for entertainer of the year became members and it stimulated new interest in the live telecast. This also led to an increase in information about the Image Awards as well as the work that the NAACP does.”

The move has drawn praise and criticism in the African-American community.

Regina Gaines is excited about open voting and hopes it sticks around. The former NAACP member says there’s a legitimate need for younger constituents who will keep the organization alive.

“The NAACP as a whole has a lot of members in their 60s and older who vote for the same usual candidates every year,” says Gaines, an entrepreneur who owns House of Pure Vin, a Detroit wine store. “Open voting allows the NAACP to expand and attract a larger audience. It’s like the People’s Choice Awards for African-Americans.”

“The NAACP is authentically allowing the people to decide,” says New Jersey-based publicist Rachel Noerdlinger. “It’s appropriate on the 50th year since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died that the NAACP celebrates the momentous contributions of people of color. Kudos to its leadership.”

Everyday voters are still excluded from certain categories. For instance, subcommittees for the literature categories required voters to have read at least a dozen newly released books. Those on the directing subcommittee, meanwhile, had to have ties to the Directors Guild of America and view all the necessary screeners in time to vote.

But isolating 18 categories out of 54 that the public cannot access still does little to preserve the sanctity the Image Awards had before open voting, says Kyle Winkfield, a contributor on WUSA-TV, a CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., and Maryland financial expert.

“There’s something to be said for ‘members only,’ Winkfield says. “In theory, it’s great to bring awareness to the awards. But it remains to be seen if these voters have a vested interest in furthering the goals and mission of the NAACP.”

James says celebrities have been nothing but positive about this year’s changes.

“Many years ago, the Image Awards were actually created in a time when people of color were not recognized by the major award shows,” James says. “The show was a way of creating excitement and that hasn’t changed. To this day, our nominees and awardees hold a special place in their hearts for the Image Awards and the alignment it has during awards-show season.”

More Film

  • Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Honored

    Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Named Honorary Argentine Academy Members

    BUENOS AIRES — In a ceremony just before Friday’s prize announcements at Ventana Sur, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian Festival, were named honorary members of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a new move for the Academy, out through by its new president, Bernardo [...]

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content