The civil rights drama “Selma” won top honors at the NAACP Image Awards in a ceremony that took sharp notice of snubs of African-American artists and their work by the Oscars.
“This is more than a movie,” Oprah Winfrey, who was a “Selma” producer and appeared in it, said Friday in accepting the trophy for outstanding motion picture. “It’s important that we all know who we are so we know where we’re going, and claiming the glory.”
“Selma,” which dramatizes events surrounding the 1965 Alabama voting rights marches led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also captured best actor honors for David Oyelowo, who played King.
“I want to take this opportunity to say I thank the Lord I was able to play one of the most transcendent human beings who ever walked the planet,” Oyelowo said.
Awards host Anthony Anderson, the black-ish star whose freshman ABC sitcom was a big TV winner Friday, opened the night with a jab at the Academy Awards, which this year has an all-white slate of acting nominees.
The critically acclaimed Selma, although a best-picture and best-song nominee at the Feb. 22 Oscars, failed to garner bids for Oyelowo or director Ava DuVernay. In January, it received a Golden Globe award for best song.
“People are up in arms because they feel the other award shows have snubbed us. So what. We’ve got our own show, right?” Anderson said. He then launched into a number that included the lyrics: “Writing, directing, no respect from this city,” and a refrain, “Forget the Oscars, hallelujah,” the Emmys and Golden Globes.
Taraji P. Henson was a double winner: she was named best actress in a movie for No Good Deed and entertainer of the year. Henson, star of the new Fox midseason hit Empire, is enjoying an especially good 2015.
On the TV side, Anderson won the award for best comedy series actor for black-ish, which was honored as best comedy series and captured a best actress trophy for Tracee Ellis Ross.
“To be able to do show about raising our black families every day is a blessing,” said black-ish creator and producer Kenya Barris.
How to Get Away with Murder was named best drama series, with star Viola Davis named best actress in a drama. Criminal Minds star Shemar Moore was named best actor in a drama series.
Spike Lee received the NAACP President’s Award, which recognizes those who have combined career success and public service. In his speech, the filmmaker addressed the obstacles facing blacks.
“This stuff is rigged. It’s not set up for us to win. It’s always been like that. Since we were stolen from mother Africa … we always find to make a way,” he said, lifting his trophy.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African-American to hold that office, accepted the NAACP Chairman’s Award honoring distinguished public service.
He said he was honored to carry on the Justice Department’s legacy that included ensuring “the most sacred of American rights, the right to vote.” Holder, who is leaving the job after six years, called on the nation to “reject the forces of hate and division.”
Veteran music industry executive Clive Davis, who nurtured the careers of artists including Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Alicia Keys, received the Vanguard Award, which recognizes work that increases understanding of racial and social issues.
He realized early in his career that African-Americans were being “pigeon-holed” as R&B artists and losing out on financial and career opportunities because of that, Davis said. He said he was proud to be honored for his efforts to help black artists reach their full potential.
The 46th NAACP Image Awards, given by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People civil rights group, aired on TV One.