Everywhere you looked; smiling faces, hugs from new and old friends and a genuine spirit of camaraderie, friendship and love in a family reunion like atmosphere filled the room. From the shimmering gold carpet to inside the gorgeous event room, the annual American Black Film Festival Honors (ABFF) reigned supreme this weekend at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.
The star-studded ceremony, hosted by “Original King of Comedy” comedian Cedric the Entertainer, honored director Ava DuVernay, who’s releasing her newest fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time, with the Industry Visionary Award, presented by “The Chi” show runner Lena Waithe.
Legendary actor Billy Dee Williams was also honored with the Hollywood Legacy Award; comedian Tiffany Haddish with the Rising Star Award; actor Omari Hardwick with the Distinguished ABFF Alumni Award and the writer and cast of “Martin” (Martin Lawrence, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Carl Payne II, and creator Bentley Kyle Evans) received the Classic Television Award.
Alongside the well-deserved honors, awards were handed out to “Television Show of the Year: Comedy and Drama” and “Movie of the Year” Awards.
“Some of you know that I did not enter this industry as an artist. I came into this business as an advertiser with a profound love for art, and the ABFF became my canvas,” blushed ABFF Ventures CEO Jeff Friday. “It has allowed me to show my love of “all things Black,” by curating experiences that promote our culture and support young creative people who are now changing the world.”
Snoop Dogg, who made a cameo appearance on the FOX television smash “Martin” in 1994, presented the cast of with the Classic Television Award.
“Power’s” leading man Omari Hardwick was also presented with the Distingished ABFF Alumni Award.
In an unprecedented tie, Chicago actor and comedian Lil Rel Howery presented the “Television Show of the Year: Comedy” Award to the cast of HBO’s “Insecure” and ABC’s “Black-ish” to Issa Rae, Jay Ellis, Yvonne Orji, Tracee Ellis Ross and Deon Cole.
Tracee Ellis Ross blushed during her award acceptance speech:
“We as black women are always the leads in our lives. But it’s really wonderful to be in that position on television and to bring the joy of a black woman and not just the surviving of a black woman to the screen. And to see that we can be all without that being what’s interesting. It’s not interesting that I’m a wife or that I’m a mother or that I’m a doctor; it’s that I am all of those things.”
For the second year in a row, “Queen Sugar” (OWN) took home the coveted Television Show of the Year (Drama) award. Ava DuVernay, along with the cast (Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Dondre Whitfield, Tina Lifford, Bianca Lawson, Timon Kyle Durrett) accepted their award.
Additional winners of the night included Universal Picture’s Get Out for Movie of the Year, as director Jordan Peele, alongside Lil Rel Howery, Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson accepted the award.
Charlie Wilson concluded the evening with a performance of “I’m Blessed” and “Outstanding” accompanied by The Adam Blackstone Band.
If you missed out on the Facebook Live red carpet arrivals, check out the footage here.
The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is an annual event dedicated to showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. The festival is committed to the belief that Black artists and content creators deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts. ABFF founder Jeff Friday conceived the festival in 1997 as a vehicle to promote diversity in the motion picture industry, and strengthen the Black filmmaking community through resource sharing, education, artistic collaboration and career development. For more than two decades, the ABFF has been the standard-bearer of excellence in independent Black cinema, having premiered the works and supported the careers of many of today’s most successful artists, including Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Anthony Anderson (Blackish), Will Packer (Girls Trip), Issa Rae (Insecure), Omari Hardwick (Power) and Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro). Today, it is the preeminent pipeline for Black talent, in front of and behind the camera, significantly expanding the range of talent in the entertainment industry at large. The ABFF is a property of ABFF Ventures LLC, a multifaceted entertainment company specializing in the production of live events, television and digital content, targeted to upscale African American audiences.