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Will Smith, Angela Bassett, ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Among Top Winners At NAACP Image Awards

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Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Abbott Elementary were among the early winners of the 2023 NAACP Image Awards.

Bassett won the first award for Artist of the Year at the ceremony hosted by Queen Latifah, and Latifah presented her with the honor. And when Bassett took the stage to accept the final award at the Saturday Night Live gala, her first notes pointed to Ariana DeBose’s rapping.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won the Best Picture award on Saturday night and took home seven other awards earlier in the week, making the film, which led the Image Awards nominations with 12 nominations, the top winner with eight wins.

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In his best picture acceptance speech, Coogler paid tribute to the late franchise star Chadwick Boseman, saying that although they lost him, “we’ve made progress. He’s with us every day, he motivates us and I can’t think of anyone who has done more to improve our image.” Coogler said he was “honored” to accept the award.

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Abbott Elementary won Outstanding Comedy Series, the sixth award in six days of NAACP awards. Star creator Quinta Bronson accepted the comedy series award when she invited her castmates — including 2023 NAACP Image Award winners Tyler James Williams and Janelle James — to join her on stage.

Will Smith won best actor for Emancipation, a rare honor for the actor after his incident with Chris Rock at last year’s Oscars. 

Smith, who has kept a relatively low profile since the incident and subsequent backlash, was absent from the 2023 NAACP Image Awards, but the crowd cheered his victory. Presenter Janelle Monáe accepted the award on his behalf.

Referring to President and CEO Derek Johnson of the NAACP, Smith wrote, “I want to thank the NAACP for honoring our film! [Derek Johnson] You and your entire organization – and the work you do throughout the year – are really important to be recognized like that – it means a lot.”

Will Smith, Angela Bassett, ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Among Top Winners At NAACP Image Awards

He also noted that he was watching the show as he praised Latifah for her work as the show’s host.

Newly released EGOT winner Viola Davis won her eighth NAACP Image Award for her starring role in the Oscar-winning film “The Woman King,” and thanked everyone involved in her “magnum opus,” a project she dubbed ” nothing but… high-octane guts.” 

But today’s honorees delivered some of the most impassioned speeches of the night as they urged the public to keep fighting for justice.

Social Justice Impact Award winner Benjamin Crumb stood as people applauded and pumped their fists in the air.

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