Recently, the Critics Choice Association Celebration of Black Cinema voters have made it loud and clear that more and more Black stars are shining bright on the big screen.
More specifically, some of those actors recognized for their amazing work include Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Breakthrough Award, The Trial of the Chicago 7), and Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Ensemble Award, One Night in Miami).
The late Chadwick Boseman who earned worldwide acclaim for his impressive portrayals of Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, and the fictional King T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, was a posthumous winner for Performance of the Year for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Singer extraordinaire Andra Day (Special Honoree Award, The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Shaka King (Director Award, Judas and the Black Messiah), John Legend & Mike Jackson (Producers Award, Giving Voice), Delroy Lindo (Career Achievement Award, Da 5 Bloods), Tommie Smith (Social Justice Award, With Drawn Arms), Tessa Thompson (Actor Award, Sylvie’s Love), and Zendaya & John David Washington (NextGen Award, Malcolm & Marie) finished out the list of awardees.
The virtual event was produced by Stagedge complete with a visual studio built by LiveCGI and EPIC Games Unreal Engine. An opening series of powerful photographs from the 2020 protests in Los Angeles and captured by filmmaker Tommy Oliver (40 Years A Prisoner, Black Love) set the tone for a power-filled evening.
Though this pre-recorded virtual platform has nixed the traditional red carpet fashion flexing, some of the winners, like Day, appeared on screen dressed to impress, though they did so from the comfort of their own homes.
One of the evening’s show-stopping moments came when King, director of the upcoming Judas and the Black Messiah, ended his speech with a rousing call to action to free “Sundiata Acoli, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the over 15 Black Panthers — now elders — who remain unjustly imprisoned or in exile.”
Ma Rainey director Wolfe presented and accepted the posthumous Performance of the Year Award for Boseman, and shared a behind-the-scenes story, creating a moment that touched the hearts and teared the eyes of countless viewers.
“I didn’t know this story at the time, but Dusan had said his nervousness took over,” Wolfe recalled of 17-year-old Ma Rainey actor Dusan Brown. “He was starting to freak out just as we were about ready to shoot him, and he said Chadwick pulled him aside and said ‘We are here for you. We are here to support you. This is your moment…’” Wolfe added. “That was Chadwick. He was so present not just as an actor, but he was present as a human being.”
According to a press release, “a special donation in Chadwick Boseman’s name will be designated to provide scholarships to students participating in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Gold Program.”
KTLA will air the 90-minute Celebration of Black Cinema special in Los Angeles on Saturday night, Feb. 6th, and over 40 cities across the country – affiliates including WGN, WPHL, KDAF, and KRON – will air a 60-minute special throughout the month of February. Check local listings for more details.