On the second evening of Black History Month, February 2, the Critics Choice Association virtually presented the third annual Celebration of Black Cinema. This year’s impressive group of honorees was comprised of visionary films, actors, producers, and directors who were honored for their work this season, and their ongoing commitment to telling Black stories on film.
Zendaya and her Malcom & Marie co-star, John David Washington, were honored with the NextGen Awards.
“This has been such a special opportunity as a young Black woman to create something, believe in myself – that means financial, that means creatively and I’m so lucky I got to do it alongside such an incredible actor and scene partner and also my fellow producer, John David Washington,” the actress gushed in her acceptance speech.
“To be able to explore the beauty of Black love and the power of Black love, how regal we looked, the intelligence of Black love and our relationship as Black people in the industry and the artistry,” her co-star added. “It was a dream come true to do this.”
Back in September, the 25-year-old won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, for her performance in the HBO Max series, Euphoria, becoming the youngest winner of the award. Over the years, she has also racked up honors from The People’s Choice Awards, The Black Reel Awards, Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, Saturn Awards, Satellite Awards, Radio Disney Music Awards, Shorty Awards, and Teen Choice Awards.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was honored at the Celebration of Black Cinema with the Breakthrough Award for his role as as Bobby Seale, the national chairman of the Black Panther Party in Aaron Sorkin’s acclaimed historical legal drama, The Trial Of The Chicago 7.
“The message of this film was very simple. It was a challenge to find our moral courage and to ask ourselves what we are willing to do when times get hard,” said the 34-year-old actor.
Tessa Thompson was honored with the Actor Award for her role in the 1960s set Sylvie’s Love, which she also executive produced.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom star, Chadwick Boseman, who lost his battle with cancer last August, was posthumously honored with the Performance of the Year Award. A special donation in the actor’s name will be designated to provide scholarships to students participating in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Gold Program. The Academy Gold Program is an industry talent development, diversity and inclusion initiative to provide individuals with a focus on underrepresented communities, access, and resources to achieve their career pathways in film making.
Other honorees included Da 5 Bloods star, Delroy Lindo, with the Career Achievement Award, musicians, John Legend and Mike Jackson with the Producers Award, Shaka King with the Director Award for Judas and the Black Messiah, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom, Jr. with the Ensemble Award for One Night In Miami, Andra Day with Special Honoree Award for The United States vs. Billie Holiday and Olympic gold medalist, Tommie Smith, with the Social Justice Award.
The Celebration of Black Cinema honorees were fêted by a prestigious group of presenters including Nnamdi Asomugha, Lee Daniels, Michael Ealy, Dominique Fishback, Taraji P. Henson, Daniel Kaluuya, Jonathan Majors, Kemp Powers, Aaron Sorkin, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Williams, and George C. Wolfe.
The event, hosted by author and media personality, Bevy Smith, opened with a series of powerful photographs captured by Black filmmaker, Tommy Oliver (40 Years A Prisoner, Black Love), around Los Angeles in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Oliver utilized his platform as a multi-hyphenate visual artist to channel the energy of the protests, seeking to inspire, incite, and challenge those who would see the final images.
In partnership with Nexstar Media Group, KTLA will air the 90-minute Celebration of Black Cinema special in Los Angeles on Saturday night, February 6 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.