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‘Debaters,’ Keys win big at Image Awards

Kam Williams

“The Great Debaters” dominated the movie categories at last week’s 39th Annual NAACP Image Awards, earning Best Picture honors while stars Denzel Washington, Denzel Whitaker and Jurnee Smollett all took home individual trophies for their performances.

With four trophies, Alicia Keys was the big winner in the music categories, while TBS’ “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” the ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” and the HBO original picture “Life Support” each earned a trio in the area of television.

This year’s Image Awards also featured gracious acceptance speeches from three lifetime honorees: Aretha Franklin, who received the Vanguard Award; Ruby Dee, recipient of the Chairman’s Award; and Stevie Wonder, who was inducted into the NAACP Hall of Fame.

The ceremony, held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, was broadcast live last Thursday night on Fox.

Hosting the event was D.L. Hughley, who last year found himself in hot water along with Don Imus for comments the comedian made on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in support of the briefly disgraced DJ. For those who may have forgotten, Hughley said that the young women from the Rutgers University basketball team were, in fact, “nappy-headed” and “some of the ugliest women I’ve seen in my whole life.” Apparently, that water is now safely under the bridge, as Imus has long since returned to radio and Hughley presented a considerably cleaner act in his capacity as Image Awards emcee.

The evening was not without its bizarre moments, however. The most bizarre arrived when famously eccentric presenter Tracy Morgan ignored the teleprompter and decided to wish a Happy Valentine’s Day to all of his baby mamas — specifically including fellow presenter Tichina Arnold, whom he alleged to be the mother of his eldest daughter.

Arnold, a single mother, has a daughter, Alijah Kai, born in 2004 and previously thought to have been fathered by ex-boyfriend Carvin Haggins. It was unclear whether Morgan’s statement was just a joke.

Aside from that odd interlude, the program unfolded in a dignified fashion striking in its embrace of multiculturalism, as producers went out of their way to include Asian and Latino performers in stage numbers. Even the audience got into the act when Wayne Brady passed around the microphone during a Stevie Wonder medley that taught viewers two things: Judge Greg Mathis can hold a tune, and “Ugly Betty” star America Ferrera can’t.

Complete list of NAACP Image Award winners


Best Picture:
“The Great Debaters”

Best Actor:
Denzel Washington, “The Great Debaters”

Best Actress:
Jurnee Smollett, “The Great Debaters”

Best Supporting Actor:
Denzel Whitaker, “The Great Debaters”

Best Supporting Actress:
Janet Jackson, “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?”

Best Director:
Kasi Lemmons, “Talk To Me”

Best Scriptwriter:
Michael Genet and Rick Famuyiwa, “Talk To Me”

Best Independent or Foreign Film:

Best Documentary:
“Darfur Now”


Best Comedy Series:
“Tyler Perry’s House of Payne”

Best Actor, Comedy Series:
LaVan Davis, “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne”

Best Actress, Comedy Series:
America Ferrera, “Ugly Betty”

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy Series:
Lance Gross, “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne”

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy Series:
Vanessa L. Williams, “Ugly Betty”

Best Director, Comedy Series:
Ken Whittingham, ‘The Office,” for the episode “Phyllis’s Wedding”

Best Scriptwriter, Comedy Series:
Ali LeRoi, “Everybody Hates Chris,” for the episode “Everybody Hates Guidance Counselor”

Best Dramatic Series:
“Grey’s Anatomy”

Best Actor, Dramatic Series:
Hill Harper, “CSI: NY”

Best Actress, Dramatic Series:
Regina Taylor, “The Unit”

Best Supporting Actor, Dramatic Series:
Omar Epps, “House”

Best Supporting Actress, Dramatic Series:
Chandra Wilson, “Grey’s Anatomy”

Best Director, Dramatic Series:
Seith Mann, “Friday Night Lights,” for the episode “Are You Ready For Friday Night?”

Best Scriptwriter, Dramatic Series:
Shonda Rhimes and Krista Vernoff, “Grey’s Anatomy,” for the episode “A Change is Gonna Come”

Best TV Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special:
“Life Support”

Best Actor in a TV Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special:
Wendell Pierce, “Life Support”

Best Actress in a TV Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special:
Queen Latifah, “Life Support”

Best Actor in a Daytime Dramatic Series:
Kristoff St. John, “The Young And The Restless”

Best Actress in a Daytime Dramatic Series:
Christel Khalil, “The Young And The Restless”

Best News/Information, Series or Special:
TVOne’s “In Conversation: The Senator Barack Obama Interview”

Best Talk Series:
“Tavis Smiley,” for “Crisis in Darfur”

Best Reality Series:
“Run’s House 4”

Best Variety Series or Special:
“Celebration of Gospel ’07”

Best Children’s Program:
“That’s So Raven”

Best Performance in a Youth/Children’s Program, Series or Special:
Raven-Symoné, “That’s So Raven”


Best Album:
Alicia Keys, “As I Am”

Best Song:
Alicia Keys, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again”

Best Male Artist:
Chris Brown

Best Female Artist:
Alicia Keys

Best Duo or Group:
Eddie and Gerald Levert

Best New Artist:
Jordin Sparks

Best Jazz Artist:
Herbie Hancock

Best Gospel Artist:
Kirk Franklin

Best World Music Album:
Angélique Kidjo, “Djin Djin”

Best Music Video:
Alicia Keys, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again”


Best Fiction:
Walter Mosley, “Blonde Faith”

Best Nonfiction:
Don Cheadle and John Prendergast, “Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond”

Best Debut Author:
Victoria Rowell, “The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir”

Best Biography/Autobiography:
David Mendell, “Obama: From Promise to Power”

Best Instructional:
Tavis Smiley, “The Covenant in Action”

Best Poetry:
Nikki Giovanni, “Acolytes: Poems”

Best Children’s Book:
“Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson” — Sue Stauffacher, author; Greg Couch, illustrator

Best Youth/Teens’ Book:
“More Than Entertainers: An Inspirational Black Career Guide” — Charles B. Schooler, author; Gary Young, illustrator