Rihanna calls on allies to “pull up” saying equality in representation should not be relegated to one ethnic groups’ problem, but should instead be a collective effort toward change across social, racial and gender lines. CH FURY GETTY IMAGES

Unlike any other awards show, the NAACP Image Awards is unique in that it honors Black artistry across multifaceted platforms in categories for film, television, music and literary works. During the 51st Annual NAACP Image Awards celebration, the accomplishments of the industry’s top artists and contributors were highlighted in an atmosphere of Black love and acceptance, a sentiment that’s often undervalued and overlooked. During this night, the talent was appreciated and handled with care.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson dished out the President’s Award to music, fashion and business mogul Rihanna, citing “her tremendous record as an activist and philanthropist” as well as her Fenty beauty line and “business achievements” as the cause for the honor. The steadily acclaimed starlett gave quite the pronounced speech during her acceptance, encouraging unity met with action from all allies within and for Black communities.

“We can’t let the desensitivity seep in,” Rihanna proclaimed. “The, ‘if it’s your problem, then it’s not mine; it’s a women’s problem, it’s a Black people problem, it’s a poor people problem,” she said. Rihanna then posed the question as to how many in the room have “colleagues and partners and friends from other races, sexes, religions” in the room, declaring that if “they like you” and want to “break bread with you,” that it’s their problem too.

“So when we’re marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Juniors and the Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up,” Rihanna said, inferring that no one in your immediate circle of “supporters” should turn a blind eye to equality and justice.

Rihanna then wrapped her speech by thanking the NAACP for their “efforts to ensure equality for our communities” and for “celebrating our strength and tenacity.” “We have been denied opportunities since the beginning of time, and still we prevail,” she said. “I am honored. Imagine what we could do together,” she concluded.

The evening of celebration also included top honors to hit ABC television series “black-ish,” which won in multiple categories including Best Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Marsai Martin), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Deon Cole), Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (Tracee Ellis Ross), and Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series (Anthony Anderson).

Fifteen-year-old superstar, Marsai Martin took home four out of the five NAACP Image Awards she was nominated for, also walking away with the Breakthrough and Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture awards for her work in the film “Little.” When asked her thoughts on what’s it like to be a young lady in the industry people look up to, Martin says it’s hard to wrap her head around. “I’m not even near the place I want to be and it’s already happening, it’s crazy and I’m so grateful for it,” she said. “There’s really nothing else I can ask for.”

Anthony Anderson and Lizzo win big at the 51st Annual NAACP Image Awards. ROBERT TORRENCE/LA SENTINEL

Top honors also went to Ava Duvernay’s “When They See Us,” which won for Outstanding Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special. Castmembers Jharrel Jerome and Niecy Nash took home wins for Best Actor and Actress in the category. Actress Jada Pinkett-Smith won the award for Outstanding Host in a Talk or News/Information (Series or Special) – Individual or Ensemble for her contributions to “Red Table Talk,” while the show itself won for Outstanding Talk Series. Meanwhile, Lupita Nyong’o took home the NAACP Image Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, a sincere highlight after being snubbed, much less nominated at countering awards platforms. In a huge win, Anya Adams walked away with the award for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series for her work in “GLOW,” the only woman to be nominated in the comedy directing category.

The category for Outstanding Motion Picture had quite the compelling list of nominees, including “Dolemite is My Name,” “Us,” “Queen and Slim” and “Harriet.” The winner, however, went to “Just Mercy,” the breakout film starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, detailing the life of the tenacious Harvard-educated, Black lawyer and advocate for the voiceless, Bryan Stevenson and his client Walter McMillian, the man wrongfully accused of committing a heinous crime he had no involvement in. Michael B. Jordan went on to win for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for his role in the film, with Jamie Foxx taking home the award for Best Supporting Actor in the same category.

The Entertainer of the Year Award went to Lizzo, who says she simply isn’t shamed by the presumed “backlash” she’s received for being open with herself and the world about her body image. “I don’t identify with backlash,” the “Truth Hurts” singer said.

“This isn’t my brand, this is who I am. I think that’s why it speaks to so many people. In a world where branding is like the first thing you see nowadays, individuals and true individuals kind of stand out like a sore thumb. I feel like a sore thumb, a beautiful sore thumb, and I’m just honored to be a part of the music industry right now where all these sore thumbs are poking out and being themselves,” she continued.

Furthermore Lizzo, says it’s long overdue for beautifully talented, big girls to get their recognition. “Big Black girls are beautiful and deserve to be heard and seen and put on stages and given Grammy’s and that’s what the f*** I’m doing,” she proclaimed.

For a complete list of winners, please visit To see highlights from the night’s winners, please visit