HOLLYWOOD—Yes people, awards season is striking us fast and very furious. On Saturday, February 26, the trophies for the 2022 NAACP Image Awards were handed out in Los Angeles and there were some surprises people. For starters, the prize for Outstanding Motion Picture was a victory for the western “The Harder They Fall.” Interesting, I thought “King Richard” might win the prize. Nope. Jennifer Hudson was a double winner taking home two prizes: Entertainer of the Year and Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her role as icon Aretha Franklin in “Respect.”

This might finally be Will Smith’s year people after delivering exceptional performances throughout his career only to come up short. He walked away with the Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for his portrayal of Richard Williams in “King Richard.” The ceremony was hosted for the eighth consecutive year by “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson. There ceremony was a bit subdued. How so? The prizes were NOT being handed out in front of all the nominees in one room. Some were virtual, some received their award in person. It was a sound stage people, but once again I understand the set-up because with COVID-19 still looming, one can never be too careful.

An overarching theme throughout the ceremony was the importance of getting out the Black vote to ensure that even though laws are being passed to suppress minorities from going to the polls. That sentiment was echoed by actor Samuel L. Jackson who received the Chairman Award. An appearance was also made by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle who received the President’s Award. “CODA” won the award for Best Independent Film, and “Encanto” was honored with the Outstanding Animated Film prize.

Mary J. Blige entertained the audience by performing live at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, singing from her latest album “Good Morning Gorgeous.” Host Anthony Anderson was able to keep a solid pace despite not having a live audience in front of him to feed off of people. I mean that joke about the NAACP Image Awards being the one place “where they can’t stop Black people from voting” was hilarious, but also true unfortunately.

The prize for Outstanding Comedy Series went to “Insecure” and the series star, Issa Rae walked away with the Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series prize, while Anderson won for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for “Black-ish.” Sterling K. Brown was honored with the Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for “This is Us,” and Angela Bassett won the prize for Outstanding Actress for her work in the series “9-1-1.” Awards were handed out throughout the week for several days leading up to the 53rd annual event.