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The 55th Annual NAACP Image Awards: Black Excellence Lifting Up

“Leadership is leadership”. Poignant words were spoken by Karen Boykin-Towns, Vice Chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors, and SHEro who has been at the helm of the Image Awards for the last 5 years. When I sat down to interview Boykin-Towns, her passion for the organization and awards show was evident.  

Lifting Up the Culture

Celebrating the 55th Anniversary, the NAACP Image Awards will take place in Los Angeles, California on March 16th at 8 pm EST. The show will be broadcast on BET and CBS. Although it is not required to be a member of the NAACP to vote for over 90 categories and 4,000 submissions, membership is encouraged and voting ends on February 24, 2024, at 9 pm EST.

According to Boykin-Towns, the Image Awards feels like a “family reunion” with the beautiful and magnificent representation of Hollywood royalty like Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, and Michael B. Jordan. However, film and television elite are not the only representation of black excellence being honored at the 55th NAACP Image Awards. Voters can cast their votes for a vast array of categories like activism, education, community service, literature, music, podcasts, and of course – film and television.  

The NAACP was founded in 1909 to promote opportunities for young people of color and has been an anchor in the black community for over a century. My conversation with Boykin-Towns left me inspired. Not only is she Vice Chair of the National Board of Directors (a volunteer role), but she has also held roles of varying levels within the organization for many years. In her own words… “We all need to do something; we ALL have agency where we sit, live, and work.” Boykin-Towns has been leading by example for over 20 years. While excelling in a full-time C-suite career in the biopharmaceutical industry, Boykin-Towns found joy in serving her community through the NAACP (including serving as President of the Brooklyn, NY local NAACP Chapter).

When asked what advice she would give to young people, her words were wise and grounded in truth. Boykin-Towns stated that her younger self would never have believed her life’s journey. She recommended that young people “stay open to opportunities”. Boykin-Towns also shared that “finding your tribe that speaks life and accountability” is an instrumental pillar of success. Some takeaways to glean from Boykin-Towns’ wise words are that opportunities may initially happen to be volunteer work or may not begin as the most glamorous experience; however, staying open often creates a space for relationship building and servant leadership. These fundamentals can pave the way for endless possibilities.

A Week of Cultural Celebration

Many people (me included) were unaware that the NAACP Image Awards televised show is the culmination of an entire week of celebration. The week includes a fashion show, awards dinner, virtual awards night (for non-televised awards categories), and other events to recognize black excellence in all facets of life, fellowship, and uplifting the culture.

Non-televised Image Award Categories

With over 4,000 entries, the prestigious Image Awards has many non-televised categories and awardees. These esteemed winners will be announced virtually during the week leading up to the televised Image Awards show, between March 11th and 14th. Virtual awards may be streamed via the link: www.naacpimageawards.net.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” ~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From the historic letter written in a Birmingham, Alabama jail on April 16, 1963.

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