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features archive: NAACP Image Awards
A Gathering of Friends
Hannibal Tabu gives an overview of the award show's 30th anniversary celebration

Amidst the pageantry and prestige of some of the finest names in entertainment, the 30th NAACP Image Awards show presented the best and brightest in African American entertainment to the world. Presented by FOX TV, the ceremony descended on the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and delivered an emotional and exciting show that served to honor the tradition of "30 Years Celebrating, 90 Years of Courage." Far more flavorful than your average awards show, the 30th NAACP Image Awards was truly an event to remember.

The show started with a rousing performance by gospel superstar Kirk Franklin and Nu Nation, who performed the song "Revolution" from their multiplatinum album, The Nu Nation Project. Eric Clapton and George Benson joined B.B. King in a rousing blues set , singing B.B.'s classic, "Rock Me Baby." Kathleen Battle's In Memoriam piece celebrated the lives of all the images we lost in the last year, and teenaged sensation Mya joined the Children of the World Mass Choir in a song to honor Harry Belafonte, the recipient of the Chairman's Award.

Special honorees provided wit and emotion to the precedings. Lauryn Hill, the recipient of the President's Award, teared up on stage as she described herself as a tool of divine inspiration, honoring her spiritual guidance and not herself. Morgan Freeman, well known for his dramatic roles, cracked wise and elicited laughter from the 2300 assembled audience members. Entertainer of the Year Will Smith summed up the evening's message the best -- "You can be clean, you can have fun, & you can make all the money." He was greeted by a standing ovation and the praise of the crowd.

The presenters, normally just garnish for the meat of performances and awards, were a show unto themselves. Star of The Temptaions, Leon improvised flirtation with FOX-TV's Ally McBeal star Lucy Liu, seranading her in mid presentation and making the normally frigid character blush. Daytime heartthrob Shemar Moore also made the moves on MTV Jams hostess Ananda Lewis, heralded by catcalls and encouragement from the audience. Stern Steve Harris from ABC's The Practice made legal wordplay with Lorraine Toussaint from Lifetime's Any Day Now, and Queen Latifah joined Chris Tucker in a tribute to Michael Jordan.

The Image Awards have been a staple of the African American entertainment community, which has often felt slighted by Hollywood's traditional systems of recognition.

-- Hannibal Tabu, $d®/Parker Brothers

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