The American Black Film Festival will host it’s first ever ABFF Honors and will celebrate Black culture by recognizing members of African descent and their contribution to the film and television industry at its gala on February 21st.  The event will be hosted by Mike Epps and will honor Diahann Carroll with the Hollywood Legacy Award, and producer Will Packer with the Distinguished ABFF Alumni Award.  Honors for Excellence in the Arts and a Rising Star, will be announced at a later date. ABFF Honors is a direct response to the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees.

“I have always believed that the Black artists in Hollywood would be more empowered if they were more committed to supporting one another, attending celebrations of their culture and relying less on mainstream validation of their work.” – Jeff Friday, ABFF President, CEO

This news leaves many wondering if the ABFF Honors will be deemed the new “Black Oscars.”  From 1981 – 2007, African American actors, directors, producers and executives held a secret ceremony on the night before Oscar night, to celebrate black performers, calling the event the “Black Oscars.” The most powerful members of the elite black Hollywood community participated in this event, which was considered a moment for black Hollywood to honor its own since Hollywood would not.  This ceremony was created by the late Albert Nellum, an attorney from Washington DC, and a private group called the “Friends of the Black Oscar Nominees” organized the ceremony.  Winners would receive black and bronze carved statuettes.

“It was something that was needed because we were all over the place trying to make our careers, which were dependent on acceptance.  This got us back to the roots to recognize one another and encourage one another to continue on. It was an extremely important thing.” – Louis Gossett Jr.

In 2007, the increase of black Oscar nominees (Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Will Smith, Djimon Hounsou etc.) put an end to this beloved celebration.  At the time (2007) it was perceived that African American’s were beginning to gain a significant presence in the Oscars race.

It is unfortunate that 9 years later, it seems as if the Oscars has regressed to a time where African-American’s were completely overlooked by Academy members.  Although Cheryl Boone Isaacs has implemented a plan to improve diversity within the Academy by 2020, it’s current members and the nominees for this year are not an accurate reflection of the world that we live in today.  The ABFF Honors is born out of empowerment, and unlike the Oscars its primary goal is to serve as a platform that honors, promotes, and celebrates minority artists.

 “Instead of looking at this as a disempowering moment, I’d like to use moments like this, and use the frustration that we feel today to encourage us to do things to gauge our own fate as African Americans.” – Jeff Friday, ABFF President, CEO

Below are the nominees for this year’s ABFF Honors:

Film of the Year

Beasts of No Nation
Straight Outta Compton

Television Show of the Year

Being Mary Jane
How to Get Away With Murder

ABFF Honors is produced by ABFF Ventures (a partnership between Film Life and Black Enterprise) in association with de Passe Jones Entertainment.



About The Author

Founder, HBR Media

K. Nicole Mills is the Founder of HBR Media. She transitioned from Wall Street to television and film development, and has worked at NBCUniversal, Universal Pictures, and Showtime Networks. She currently develops digital programming for premium networks. Reach out anytime!

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