“Much of the current controversy is about the lack of acknowledgement. Tonight, we do it ourselves.” Ice Cube said these words as he introduced his film nomination for Straight Outta Compton during the ABFF Awards, which aired last night on BET. Taking place earlier this week in Beverly Hills, the event aimed to honor African-American achievement in film and television.
For 20 years, the American Black Film Festival has been doing what Hollywoodn’t: providing a space for Black films to be shown, awarding Black excellence, and giving opportunity where there hadn’t been before. With the Academy Awards looming, actors like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith declining to attend, with others not even invited even though their film received a nomination (cast of Straight Outta Compton), the time was ripe for a televised ABFF event.
Awards were presented to film producer Will Paker, director Ryan Coogler, Robert Townsend, Don Cheadle, ABFF creator Jeff Friday and more. Empire’s V. Bozeman, Morris Day and The Time performed while Mike Epps hosted. The ABFF Awards possessed some great Black moments. Here are the top five blackity Blackest.
5. Regina King’s acceptance speech
Regina King received the Alumni Achievement Award for her extensive body of work, spanning over 30 years. During her eloquent acceptance speech, she made sure to mention the importance of acknowledging the fact that Black Lives Matter saying, “Black lives need to matter to Black people. And I just want to say that Black lives matter to me, and it matters to everybody in this room. So if I can do anything good in all of this beauty that’s happening in this room tonight is to say, ‘I love you, we love you and you matter.’ ”
4. Black-ish creator pointing out what everyone else needs to know
Black-ish picked up the ABFF Award for Television Show of the Year. It was a full-circle moment for Anthony Anderson, having won his very first award ever for anything 16 years ago as the ABFF Rising Star. But it was what Black-ish creator Kenya Barris said that struck a chord in the room. “This is all new for me,” he began. “And it’s amazing, because I’m looking around and I see so many people who I’ve worked with and so many people who I want to work with. And the interesting thing is, it’s not because you’re Black. It’s because you’re the best.”
3. Jamie Foxx’s joke
If anything was clear during the ABFF Awards, it was this: with all the successful, overachieving Black actors in the room, the Academy Awards must truly be tone deaf. It was Oscar winner Jamie Foxx’s #OscarsSoWhite joke that brought levity to the entire situation. While presenting Will Paker’s Alumni Achievement Award, Foxx joked that he didn’t see what the big deal was about “all this Oscar talk,” adding a sly smile and a shifty eye and saying, “I was sitting at home with my Oscar like, ‘What’s all the hubbub? What the hell are they talking about?’ ”
2. Ice Cube saying what everyone was thinking
Straight Outta Compton won an ABFF Award for Film of the Year. The N.W.A biopic was up against a plethora of great films in the category, including Concussion, Dope, Creed and Beast of No Nation. And in true Ice Cube fashion—with his son, Straight Outta Compton star O’Shea Jackson Jr. by his side—the actor-producer-MC didn’t hold his tongue from saying what the hell he wanted during his acceptance speech.
“My son stepped up to the plate and really made me proud as a father,” said Cube. “He’s second generation Hollywood. If the Barrymores and all them people can do it, gotdamnit, we can too! So we’re happy, we’re excited, we’re proud of the film. This is our favorite award. We ain’t worried about no other awards.” He also acknowledged that he wouldn’t be there if not for Boyz n the Hood director John Singleton (who was also in the house) for discovering him and seeing something in him he didn’t see in himself.
1. Diahann Carroll’s flawless tribute
The legendary Diahann Carroll received the Hollywood Legacy Award, and her honor was a great moment that gave way to another and still another. Kerry Washington began an acknowledgment of Carroll’s numerous achievements, making sure to note that a lot of folks in that room wouldn’t be there if not for her pioneering accomplishments.
A phenomenal recitation from the Tony-winning, Oscar-nominated star’s memoir, The Legs Are the Last to Go, came next, read by three generations of great actresses: Kerry Washington, Loretta Devine and Keke Palmer. The recital gave insight to the one-of-a-kind woman the 80-year-old thespian truly is.
The culmination of the tribute came when Keke Palmer performed “The Sweetest Sounds”—the classic tune Carroll made famous during her 1962 Tony-awarded Broadway show, No Strings. Palmer’s vocals were crystal clear and the entire Beverly Hilton ballroom sat in awe.
Diahann Carroll addressed the diversity issue in what was possibly the classiest way of the night, giving hope to the room and acknowledging the good ABFF is doing saying, “I have lived to see something merging here that I have great respect for, and I know we’re going to make it.”
Crystal Shaw King is a seasoned TV, radio and online entertainment writer. She's also a contributing editor for a social justice foundation in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @crystalamberbam.