Karen Boykin-Towns (Courtesy photo)

As vice chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors and chairman of the Image Awards Committee of the 55th NAACP Image Awards, Karen Boykin-Towns has played a pivotal role in shaping the prestigious program over the past five years.

She is known as a visionary and a powerful driver, utilizing her expertise in the areas of policy, advocacy, communications, and proactive change management. A distinguished strategist, global business, and civic leader, Boykin-Towns previously contributed her expertise across government, the nonprofit sector, and Pfizer, a Fortune 50 global biopharmaceutical company, while also championing civil rights and social justice issues.

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Embracing her passion for policy and politics, Boykin-Towns’ early career involved serving as legislative director and then chief of staff to New York State Senator David Paterson who later became the 55th Governor of New York.

In addition to her work with the NAACP where she is a Diamond member, Karen serves on the boards of the American Airlines Community Council, Visiting Nurse Services, Brewster Academy, and independent director for iFIT, maker of NordicTrack.

Here is what Boykin-Towns shared about this year’s NAACP’s 55th NAACP Image Awards.

L.A. Sentinel: There seems to be a perception that the NAACP, founded in 1909, may not adequately address the needs of youth of color in this country. I understand this isn’t accurate, but could you provide further insight on this matter?

Karen Boykin-Towns: We understand the perception, but it’s important to highlight the significant efforts we’ve made to engage and empower youth of color within our organization. We currently have seven members under the age of 25 serving on our National Board of Directors, demonstrating our commitment to including youth voices in decision-making processes.

Additionally, we have a dedicated National Youth Work Committee and a division focused on collaborating with young people to address their needs and concerns. Recognizing the invaluable contributions of young activists, we present annual awards such as the Activist of the Year and Youth Activist of the Year, underscoring our commitment to amplifying and validating the work of youth leaders within our community.

LAS: I have such respect for the NAACP, which was started in 1909.

KBT: That’s correct and we will be celebrating our 115th anniversary on February 12.

LAS: Impressive, and speaking of being impressed, I am blown away by the level of talent that’s represented in the nominee list. Let me just say — we are absolutely killing it as a community of storytellers.

KBT: In my role as chairman of the Image Awards Committee, I want to emphasize that while this is just one aspect of my broader leadership responsibilities within the association, during this time of year, my focus is unparalleled. From late into the night to early mornings, I immerse myself in reviewing various coverages and engaging on social media. It’s truly invigorating. What resonates overwhelmingly is the sheer abundance of talent across all categories.

LAS: I’m not seeking to disregard Guild nominations, but upon closer examination, it’s apparent that our community is inadequately represented in their lists of nominees. One might contend that, without deeper understanding (and we certainly have that understanding), people of color are not contributing to the creative community, which couldn’t be further from reality. Allow me to put it plainly — we are culture.

KBT: Yes, in every category, there’s incredible talent in our community that is unparalleled elsewhere. What sets the Image Awards apart is our commitment to recognizing our own, and we truly cherish and celebrate it. While receiving recognition from esteemed institutions like the Academy or the Golden Globes is significant, what resonates deeply, as reiterated by the talent themselves, is the acknowledgment and appreciation from within our own community for their work.

LAS: Let’s be honest, folks are the hardest critics because we are all so very talented. So yes, yes. A nomination and a win from our community means something. We’re our harshest critic.

KBT: Exactly.

LAS: This brings us to the most crucial reason for this conversation, which is to tell the community where they can vote.

KBT: By visiting www.naacpimageawards.net, the public can vote to determine the winners of the “55th NAACP Image Awards” in select categories.

LAS: When does voting close?

KBT: Voting closes February 24, at 9 p.m., and winners will be revealed during the “55th NAACP Image Awards” telecast on March 16, on BET and CBS.

LAS: What about the non-televised Image Awards categories?

KBT: NAACP will recognize winners in non–televised Image Awards categories March 11–14th, which will stream via naacpimageawards.net.

For information and updates, follow NAACP Image Awards on Instagram @NAACPImageAwards.