Megan Good (photo by CoverUp Photos)
By Joy Childs
Sentinel Contributing Writer
Though it got off to a bit of a late start Friday, it was well worth the wait to see nine prominent Africans and African Americans walk the red carpet to be honored at the 20th Annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival at the Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
PAFF is America’s largest and most prestigious international Black film festival. Its Night of Tribute, produced by the Africa Channel, annually honors world-renowned actors, filmmakers, community leaders and fine artists for their contributions on television, film, stage, the arts and the community.
Leading the esteemed group of honorees, Loretta Devine received the highest honor, a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work on television, film and stage. After more than 30 years in the business, Devine nabbed an Emmy last year for outstanding guest actress in a dramatic role for her work as Adele, the wife of the chief (played by James Pickens, Jr., who presented her with the award) on ABC’s hit medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”
She picked up three NAACP Image Awards for her TV work as teacher Marla Hendricks on David E. Kelly’s Fox series, “Boston Public,” from 2000?2004.
Just announced, she’s set to co-star with Jennifer Love Hewitt in Lifetime’s new series, “The Client List.”
On the big screen, she received an Independent Spirit Award nod for best supporting female for her role as Cassey Jordan in 2004’s “Woman Thou Art Loosed.” And she’s been nominated for several NAACP Image Awards in television and film, grabbing two awards for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture for her roles in “Waiting to Exhale” and “The Preacher’s Wife.”
She’s appeared in some of audience’s most beloved movies, including “Jumping the Brown,” “This Christmas,” “Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls” and “Madea’s Big Happy Family.” Other film credits include the Academy award-winning film, “Crash,” “I Am Sam,” “What Women Want” and “Stanley and Iris.”
Not to be forgotten was her breakout stage role, the one that brought her to national attention. In the role of Lorrell, the Houston native was one of the three original “Dreamgirls” in Michael Bennett’s classic, award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. She followed that performance with a fiery portrayal of Lillian in Bob Fosse’s critically-acclaimed stage production, “Big Deal.”
Other performances, including George C. Wolfe’s “Colored Museum” and “Lady Day at Emerson Bar and Grill,” which cemented Devine’s status as one of the most talented and versatile stage actresses.
“Ms. Devine is probably one of the hardest working women in show business,” said Ayuko Babu, founder and executive director of the Pan African Film Festival. “She is an extremely gifted and versatile actress, creating soulful characters in some of our favorite televisions shows and films.” He added, “Through her craft, she is an amazing storyteller, delivering memorable performances and portraying characters with a richness and vulnerability that connects with audience on many different levels.”
Previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award include Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr.; Tony award-winner Phylicia Rashad; Emmy award-winning actor Glynn Turman; award-winning actresses Marla Gibbs and Dr. Della Reese; and the honorable Ambassador Andrew Young.
The other eight recipients of awards were:
• Meagan Good, recipient of the Beah Richards Rising Star Actress Award, awarded for a rising star in television and film. She rose to fame in “Eve’s Bayou” with Samuel L. Jackson. Today, Good is one of the most sought-after actresses, with a string of film credits, including “Jumping the Broom,” “The Unborn,” “The Love Guru,” “35 & Ticking,” “Video Girl” as well as fan favorites, “Stomp the Yard” and “You Got Served.”
Good will appear in the film adaptation of “Think Like a Man,” based on radio host Steve Harvey’s bestselling book, which is scheduled for theatrical release on March 9.
• David Oyelowo, recipient of the Canada Lee Rising Star Actor Award. Named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the “faces to watch in 2012,” Oyelowo’s credits include “The Help,” “The Rise of the Planet of Apes” and the indie “96 Minutes.” Currently, he can be seen as one of the Tuskegee Airmen in George Lucas’ bio-pic, “Red Tails.”
• Mr. Leon Garr, recipient of the Community Treasure Award. A well-respected entrepreneur and philanthropist, Garr launched Garr Construction, contributing to the architectural fiber of Southern California. Though semi-retired, at the age of 76, Garr purchased the failing Founders Savings and Loan and transformed it into Founders National Bank — i.e., the only African American-owned commercial bank in Southern California. Today, he’s 88.
• Jewel Thais-Williams, recipient of the Community Service Award. She’s a club owner and health care practitioner who’s celebrating 39 years of business with her night club, Jewel’s Catch One Night Club, affectionately known as “The Catch,” on Pico just east of Crenshaw. She founded the Village Health Foundation to offer health and hope to the un- and under-insured. But more courageously, she befriended the LGBT community—initially hit with HIV/AIDS pandemic – providing a safe haven for those stricken with the deadly disease.
• Van Vicker, recipient of The Africa Channel’s Creative Achievement Award. One of Africa’s hottest movie stars, he’s one of the most sought-after “Nollywood” (i.e., cinema of Nigeria) actors. The award-winning actor has appeared in more than 100 movies, including “Paparazzi: Eye in the Dark,” “Royal War,” “Broken Tears,” “Return of Beyonce” and “Princess Tyra.” He’s been nominated twice for an African Movie Academy Award.
• Jimmy Jean-Louis, recipient of The Africa Channel Diasporan Award. One of the most popular and recognizable actors in Africa who’s currently making his mark in television and film in Hollywood, the Haitian actor is best known to American audiences from his stint on NBC’s “Heroes” and as the romantic lead in “Phat Girlz” with Oscar® winner Mo’Nique. His Nollywood credits include “Toussant Louverture,” “Sinking Sands” and “I Sing of a Well.”
• Eric Kabera and the Rwanda Cinema Centre, recipients of The Africa Channel’s Visionary Award. Kabera is an acclaimed Rwandan filmmaker and documentarian. His credits include “Africa United,” “Through My Eyes,” “Keepers of Memory” and “Kist Towards a Brighter Future.” Kabera founded the Rwanda Cinema Center, which trains young filmmakers and promotes the art of movie-making in Rwanda. He is the founder of the Rwanda International Film Festival, which is organized by the Rwanda Cinema Center.
• Pharoah Sanders, recipient of the Creative Achievement Award. As a tenor saxman, Sanders has been nonpareil, having played with Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane and John. Though he was deeply influenced by his collaborations with John Coltrane, Sanders became a leading proponent of free jazz, later dabbling in African rhythms and even rhythm and blues.
Sanders provided the evening’s only live music, invoking the old-school jazz vibes of the 1960s with his signature “The Creator Has a Master Plan.”
The ceremony will be televised by the Africa Channel, which is
broadcast in major markets across the United States and the