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Halle Berry, Barry Jenkins Feted at Fourth Annual Celebration of Black Cinema and Television


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On Monday, the Critics Choice Association hosted its fourth annual Celebration of Black Cinema and Television, an evening honoring Black images on screen and the diverse community of talent that brings them to life.

The Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel was abuzz with culturally specific stories and references; the evening’s host, Niecy Nash, welcomed the audience to a night of “melanin excellence” before promising to move the event along swiftly.

Tracee Ellis Ross was the first to introduce her on-screen husband Anthony Anderson, who received the Producer Award for his work on the trilogy of ‘-ish’ shows: Black-ish, Grown-ish and Mixed-ish. Anderson spoke extemporaneously, thanking his mother (“the producer who produced me”) and gave thanks to co-creator Kenya Barris, adding: “This -ish universe, not only has it changed my life, it’s changed the life of the culture and pushed the needle forward.”

Danielle Brooks received the Actress Award for Television for her portrayal of gospel songstress Mahalia Jackson in Mahalia, and thanked director Kenny Leon for helping her “dismantle what a leading lady can look like on screen.”

Breakthrough Award winner Toheeb Jimoh, of Ted Lasso fame, was lovingly introduced by his co-star Brett Goldstein: “Working with Toheeb is like what it must have been like working with George Clooney on ER, it’s like you’re doing a good job, but you’re not George Clooney. It’s like…this guy’s going to be Batman, what’s he doing here?”

Jimoh responded with gratitude for the level of inspiration in the room as a whole, and for the opportunity to “be able to tell a Nigerian story and play a Nigerian character with grace and nuance.”

Keenan Thompson, Will Smith, Natasha Rothwell, Omar Sy, and Antoine Fuqua all accepted awards in absentia. And the cast of The Harder They Fall, which won the Ensemble Award, was celebrated for providing a “new perspective on the old west.”

The night also briefly departed from award acceptance speeches when it was announced that the Academy Gold scholarship would be given to one student from an underrepresented community for the second year in a row, in order to participate in the academy’s Gold Rising internship program.

Robin Thede, the first Black woman to have the head writer title in late-night television, won the Showrunner Award for A Black Lady Sketch Show, saying: “On my show, I created an environment where no one is underestimated and is always valued.”

Barry Jenkins, who won the Director Award for Television for The Underground Railroad, stressed the importance of the Black community telling its own stories (and telling the truth), citing colonial erasure of indigenous American texts in the Yucatán as evidence of how dangerous it can be when narratives are inaccurately rewritten from an interloper’s perspective. Said Jenkins: “I would have learned more about slavery from Toni Morrison’s fiction than from textbooks.”

The show closed with Ava DuVernay’s receipt of the first Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award for her catalogue of work, and with Halle Berry tearfully accepting the Career Achievement Award for her robust, three-decade acting and now directing – career.

“To be in this room with so many of my peers and so many beautiful people of color just fills me up,” Berry said. “When I started 30 years ago there weren’t rooms like this where I could go and feel affirmed, esteemed. I was often alone; I was one of only a few Black people in the room searching to find my value and searching to find my worth. I feel accomplished.”

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