The 2023 NAACP Image Awards featured plenty of breakout stars and seasoned vets who have been inspiring their fans in music, television and film, as well as community activism. Iconic actress Angela Bassett was among the winners on the historic Saturday night.
Bassett took the Entertainer of the Year award, competing in the category against Mary J. Blige, Quinta Brunson, Viola Davis and Zendaya.
Bassett also took the award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, earning the recognition for her role in 9-1-1.
In her acceptance speech, Bassett showed gratitude to her Black Panther: Wakanda Forever writer-director, Ryan Coogler, saying he “showed us that we are royalty and he built the crown for us all to wear.”
“I am deeply grateful,” Bassett said. “Gratitude is the universe’s way of saying that we are not existing in this world alone; we have each other.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won best motion picture on Saturday. The film also won seven other awards during the non-televised ceremonies earlier in the week.
Coogler paid tribute to late franchise star Chadwick Boseman while accepting the award for best motion picture.
“We gained an ancestor. He’s with us every day, motivating us, and I can’t think of anyone who done more to advance our image.” Coogler said.
Abbott Elementary star Quinta Brunson took the stage with co-stars Tyler James Williams and Janelle James as the show won the Outstanding Comedy Series award.
“We are a brand-new show. Watching all of the other shows [in our category] that paved the way for us, shows that helped push us through the door at ABC like Black-ish … we are so grateful,” Brunson said. “We’re happy that we get to make this show that is accessible to everyone but for and by us.”
Abbott Elementary took a total of six awards during the NAACP’s six-day awards presentations.
Will Smith earned best actor in a motion picture for Emancipation. Smith wasn’t present at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards, but presenter Janelle Monáe accepted the honor on his behalf.
“WOW!! NAACP!! I am absolutely humbled by this!!” Smith wrote on Instagram.
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Viola Davis won her eighth NAACP Image Award when she took the award for her role in The Woman King.
In the category of Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, Nicco Annan took the award for his role in P-Valley. Annan dedicated his award to “every 40-, 50-, 60-, 70-year-old plus that did not have space to be themselves.” P-Valley won two other honors over the span of the NAACP Image Awards’ week-long celebration, also took the prize for best drama series.
Gabrielle Union-Wade and Dwyane Wade, who accepted the President’s Award, talked about their daughter, Zaya, and the challenges she faces as a Black trans person.
“All I’ve wanted to do was get it right. I’ve sat back and watched how gracefully you have taken on the public scrutiny. And even though it’s not easy, I watched you walk out of the house every morning as yourself,” Wade said. “I admire how you handle the ignorance in our world … that you face every day.”
Other inspiring difference makers who were honored at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards include Serena Williams and Bennie Thompson. Williams was recognized with the Jackie Robinson Sports Award while Thompson accepted the Chairman’s Award.
Prominent lawyer Benjamin Crump was honored with the Social Justice Impact Award.
“We are prepared to fight for Black history,” Crump said. “We have to stand up for our children’s future. … We have to fight for our children’s future. If we don’t … we can’t expect anyone else to. … [We have to be] prepared to fight for our children’s future until hell freezes over. And then, we have to be ready to fight on the ice.”
Queen Latifah hosted Saturday’s ceremony, which also included an appearance from WNBA star Brittney Griner. During the virtual presentation earlier in the week, stars such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, Trevor Noah and Jennifer Hudson received NAACP Image Awards.