Kenya Barris and Janet Mock were among the special honorees at Saturday’s 2020 AAFCA TV Honors ceremony, which celebrated the best in entertainment on the small screen. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the African American Film Critics Association’s second annual celebration was held virtually, with stars like Sterling K. Brown, Viola Davis, John Legend and Mindy Kaling accepting their awards from home.
Barris picked up the Icon Award, presented by his “#Black-AF” co-star Rashida Jones, joking, “It’s something I never thought that I would be in the position to get…so many thoughts and questions come to my mind, like, ‘How old do these people actually think I am? And do they have a different meaning of icon than I do?’”
But, like he does on screen with his shows “Black-ish,” “Mixed-ish” and “Grown-ish,” in his speech, Barris focused on the cultural relevance of the moment and the award, emphasizing how he hopes to “empower different voices of all different nationalities, ethnicities, and genders to continue to tell their stories in a really authentic way” as he enters into the next phase of his career.
“Right now, we are living in a time of a lot of pain, particularly for African Americans — Black pain. And I think that during this time, I’ve often looked at ‘What is the place of comedy? And is this a place and a time for comedy?’” Barris said. “Comedy is best presented when it comes from pain. It’s the medicine that allows you to take in, with a spoonful of sugar, what we’ve gone through. I think that as Black people it’s what we have been best at doing. And I think that being able to receive this award from my peers and from my family, during this time, is more impactful to me than it could be ever, and will ever be for me at any other time.”
Like Barris, Mock’s remarks also took note of the current status of the world in wake of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Accepting the Adcolor Breakout Creative Award, Mock focused on TV’s power in the fight for justice for all marginalized communities.
“As we continue to struggle for Black people, we must also include Black trans people, Black queer people, Black disabled people, all of the Black people, my people,” Mock said. “There are many ways to go about doing this work and I aim to do my part by wielding my pen, my vision and my voice like a weapon against racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism and the erasure of Black and indigenous people.”
She continued: “I truly believe that telling our stories is a revolutionary act. Stories have always helped me; they’ve always been my refuge. I wrote my books, my scripts direct my projects solely focused on centering myself in ways no other book or show had done before. I create for the girl I once was, longing and searching for herself in the creation of others on screen.”
Mock’s award was presented by “Pose” stars Mj Rodriguez, Angelica Ross and Indya Moore, while her “Hollywood” collaborators, stars Jeremy Pope and Laura Harrier, were also honored during the event, sharing the Breakthrough Performers prize.
In some ways, the show served as a preview of the 72nd Emmy Awards with a number of Emmy nominees involved in the event, including presenters Octavia Spencer and William Jackson Harper, as well as winners Leslie Odom Jr. (whose Apple TV plus series “Central Park” took home the Best Animated Series prize), Pope and Brown (who took home the Best Male Performance prize for the second consecutive year).
“The role of Randall has been such an interesting and wonderful journey for me in my career, to see him struggle with where he belongs. If he is Black enough, if he is too Black in certain circles for his family, but not Black enough when he’s around other African Americans,” Brown said. “And I think we all struggle with that feeling of ‘Where do we belong? How much is enough?’”
“What are we doing to uplift and support our people, our race? It’s a question that I asked myself all the time,” he continued. “I can only represent myself, but I want you all to know that in representing myself I hope that I do you proud. It is something that is always in the forefront of my consciousness, the representation that I put in front of and behind the camera is one that uplifts, that entertains, that educates and edifies, not just the human experience but the Black experience as well.”
Actor/comedian Aida Rodriguez served as the show’s host, keeping the show moving while honorees and VIP guests were treated to an at-home brunch featuring deliveries by Eugene’s Fisherman and Baked It Myself and cocktails from Diageo, Johnnie Walker Black and Cocktail Courier.
Additional presenters included AAFCA President and Co-Founder Gil Robertson, Oscar-winning director Matthew A. Cherry, Nicco Annan, Tichina Arnold, Omar J. Dorsey, Brandee Evans, Niles Fitch, Kevin Frazier, Tina Lifford, Derek Luke, Simone Missick, Sheryl Lee Ralph, while Abby Dobson performed a special version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to kick off the program. The full range of frontline workers and community leaders who took part in the ceremony were GA Congressman Hank Johnson, Montgomery Alabama’s Mayor Steven Reed, NBCLA’s Beverly White, Reverend Jamal Bryant, nurse Cherelle Barsdale, Dr. Ala Stanford, Tanya Riers, Quentin Curtis and Dr. Christopher Emdim.
Proceeds from the 2020 AAFCA TV Honors presented by Morgan Stanley benefit NABJ COVID-19 Relief Fund & A&E Committee.
The full list of honorees follows and to view the full award ceremony, watch the video above.
2020 AAFCA TV Honors Award Recipients:
TV Icon – Kenya Barris
Inclusion Award – MACRO Television Studios
Best Actress – Viola Davis, “How To Get Away With Murder” (ABC)
Best Actor – Sterling K. Brown, “This is Us” (NBC)
Best Drama – “For Life” (ABC)
Best Comedy – “Insecure” (HBO)
Best TV Movie – “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel” (Lifetime)
Breakout Performers – Jeremy Pope / Laura Harrier, “Hollywood” (Netflix)
Best YA – “Never Have I Ever” (Netflix)
Best Animated – “Central Park” (Apple TV plus)
Best Documentary – “Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children” (HBO) and “The Last Dance (ESPN Films/Netflix)
Best Short Form – “I Promise” (Quibi)