The Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica was an emotional scene on Sunday afternoon as the African American Film Critics Association honored Black-led TV shows, writers, actors and directors for their work on the silver screen.
Jennifer Hudson, who received one of the top awards during the fifth annual AAFCA TV Honors, belted out a verse of “Talk About a Child That Do Love Jesus” after tearfully admitting, “I can’t sing and cry at the same time,” as she took to the stage to receive the We See You Award.
“I always say you will always see me trying no matter what, and it’s nothing wrong with trying,” said the recent EGOT winner. “Trying just means you believe in yourself, so don’t let no one discourage you from trying and believing in yourself,” added Hudson, who proudly announced her AAFCA Award will sit on her mantle next to her Oscar and Grammy.
Delroy Lindo also held back tears as he accepted the Legacy Award presented to him by Danny Glover, who addressed him as a “welcome presence on the screen and the stage.”
“He’s someone we’ve come so used to seeing that it’s hard to recall the first time that you saw him,” Glover told attendees. “His resume is extensive and impressive and one to be proud of. His resume is the type that creates legacies.”
In his acceptance speech, Lindo called Glover his “good friend and soulmate” after the two shared a long embrace, saying, “Danny single-handedly showed me how to use celebrity in service of my fellow human beings.”
The UnPrisoned star, who also serves as executive producer of the recently renewed Hulu series, then reflected on the importance of the AAFCA and the fellow Black creatives in the room. “So much wisdom has been articulated this morning. Us supporting us. Why we do what we do. The energy that we need to keep doing what we do in the face of others saying that we don’t quite have it. We’re not what’s needed,” he said, continuing, “But we know that we are what’s needed and that they would benefit from including us more, allowing us to tap into our gifts. And if we don’t get permission to tap into our gifts then guess what? We’re going to do it anyway.”
Afro-Latina comedian Aida Rodriguez served as the mistress of ceremonies for the event for a second time after previously hosting the ceremony virtually during the pandemic in 2020. In her opening remarks, she thanked AAFCA’s president Gil Robertson and the African American community as a whole for its role in her career success, saying, “I would not have worked had it not been for Black people in Hollywood. You have always seen me as a human being so I just want to say thank you.”
Other 2023 awardees included Shrinking actress Jessica Williams, who told guests upon accepting the honor of Breakout Star, “I’m so thankful to be here at this moment where I can receive the Breakout Award, not just from critics but from Black Critics.”
Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso received the Inclusion Award for its diversity in front of and behind the cameras while the Impact Award was bestowed upon the CBS procedural drama S.W.A.T. for centering its storytelling around the experience of a Black male cop. ABC’s Abbott Elementary received awards for best TV writing and best TV comedy while Starz’s P-Valley swept in the categories of best TV drama, best ensemble and best TV acting male, a distinction shared between actors Nico Annan and J. Alphonse Nicholson.
“Thank you for seeing the story of these two people and letting it change hearts,” Annan said of his character Uncle Clifford’s queer romance with Lil Murda, played by Nicholson. “It’s a true gift to be a part of a body of work that really is art … to be a part of something that is culture shifting is amazing and it’s a blessing and I do not take it for granted. We do not take it for granted.”
Additional winners were Mo (best new show), The 1619 Project (best documentary), The Best Man: The Final Chapters (best limited series), Shooting Stars (best TV movie), The Ms. Pat Show best TV directing) and Niecy Nash-Betts (best TV acting female) for her role in Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
Marla Gibbs’ presentation of the Legend Award closed out the invitation-only luncheon with the 92-year-old comedic actress joking about her age almost as soon as she took to the podium.
“We are spiritual people as well as physical people, and as spiritual people we don’t have an age and we don’t have a time, so I choose to vibrate on 30 — that way I can keep working,” she quipped before adding, “So writers out there, write something for me, ‘cuz I’m ready.”
Gibbs, known for groundbreaking roles on sitcoms The Jeffersons and 227, also imparted words of advice to up-and-coming actors after expressing her gratitude for not only being alive but still receiving awards. “Keep the faith. Trust yourself, trust your heart, but use your head because that’s where you’re smart,” she said. “We know as God says that we have to have faith. If you take one step, God will take two. So don’t give up and don’t decide when it’s supposed to happen because that ain’t none of your business.”