Actress Kerry Washington received the ultimate stamp of approval at The 44th NAACP Image Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on Feb. 1.
Washington took home the first of three honors with the supporting actress in a motion picture award for her work in Django Unchained.
She praised director Quentin Tarantino, whose film came under fire for its many uses of the n-word. "Thank you for telling this story no matter what anyone says," Washington said.
She also received the President’s Award for public service, given to her in part because of her work on behalf of President Obama. Before being presented the honor, she was praised for breaking the color barrier as the first African-American woman to star in a primetime drama since Diahann Carroll on NBC's Julia 35 years ago. Carroll praised the Scandal star, saying, “I think she’s enjoying one of the great moments of her life right now in our industry."
In her third win for the night, Washington took home the actress in a drama series award for ABC's Scandal. She thanked Disney and ABC for "having the courage" to put an African-American woman at the center of a primetime drama. She called her cast and crew family, who all "hold each other up."
The George Lucas-produced Red Tails took home the best motion picture award, which saw the Star Wars creator joke: "Look, I beat Quentin Tarantino." He choked up when thanking the Tuskegee Airmen, the group of African-American World War II pilots whose story is chronicled in the film.
Denzel Washington won best actor in a motion picture for Flight, and Viola Davis took home best actress in a motion picture for Won't Back Down. Don Cheadle nabbed honors for best actor in a comedy series for Showtime's House of Lies.
LL Cool J dedicated his drama series actor win for NCIS: LA to the late Michael Clarke Duncan, who died in September. "He was a good man, and I wish his family well," he said.
Sir Sidney Poitier embraced Harry Belafonte when presenting him with the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor. Belafonte used his speech to call for social change, asking why the African-American community remains mute when it comes to gun violence.
“The river of blood that floods the streets of this nation flow mostly from black children,” the 85-year-old musician and activist said. He called on the community to do something, saying "our children" are waiting.
Shortly after, a visibly moved Jamie Foxx received the entertainer of the year award. He said he had prepared a speech touting his own accomplishments, but that felt foolish in the wake of Belafonte’s stirring words.
"After watching and listening to Harry Belafonte speak, somehow I feel like I failed a little bit in being caught up in what I do," Foxx said. "I guarantee you I’m going to work a whole lot harder."
Going into the show, Django Unchained had nominations in four categories, including for best picture, where it is competing with Flight, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Red Tails and Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds.The ceremony was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and was hosted by Steve Harvey. It aired live on the East Coast on NBC.
In his opening, Harvey said it was fitting the awards were being celebrated on the first day of Black History Month and noted that 2013 was the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. He said that 2012 was an incredible year, in which "President Barack Obama rewrote history." He praised the rise of Kerry Washington and Gabby Douglas, as well as Magic Johnson's new ownership share in the L.A. Dodgers.