On Tuesday night, BET aired A Celebration of Hollywood presented by the American Black Film Festival, which was the TV premiere of the inaugural ABFF Awards. The star-studded event took place at The Beverly Hilton on Sunday, February 21st, and SoulBounce was in the house as a guest of Cadillac to witness the historic affair. The night was all about #BlackExcellence, #BlackGirlMagic and Black Hollywood at the ABFF Awards and numerous stars from film, television and music came out to honor awardees of color in eight categories in a year when the Oscars are sadly colorless.
Awards were presented to producer Will Packer (ABFF Alumni Achievement Award), actress Regina King (Excellence in the Arts Award), writer/director Ryan Coogler (Rising Star Award), actor Don Cheadle (Excellence in the Arts Award), icon Diahann Carroll (Hollywood Legacy Award), Hollywood Shuffle (Classic Cinema Award), black-ish (Television Show of the Year) and Straight Outta Compton (Film of the Year).
In between introductions, acceptance speeches, video tributes and lots of comedy courtesy of host Mike Epps (as well as presenters Jamie Foxx, Regina Hall and Anthony Anderson who were all the way live), there were musical performances that totally set the night off. Empire's breakout star V. Bozeman was first to perform, and she wowed the audience with a medley of her songs "What Is Love" and "Smile" sans Timbaland but with all the passion and pure vocal talent that she's come to be known for.
When it came time to award Diahann Carroll, Kerry Washington, Loretta Devine and Keke Palmer took to the stage to pay tribute to the living legend by performing dramatic readings from her 2009 autobiography, The Legs are the Last to Go. Watching the multigenerational trio recite Carroll's words while she sat beaming in the audience was a beautiful sight. However, when Palmer sang "The Sweetest Sounds," a song that Diahann debuted in the 1962 musical No Strings and which Keke would go on to sing on Broadway in her role as Cinderella, she stunned all under the sound of her voice. We knew that Keke Palmer could sing, but we didn't know that she could sing like that in what was a true highlight of the night.
After all the awards were given out, Morris Day and The Time were called on to end the first ABFF Awards and they got the after party started early. Decked out in a taxicab yellow suit, Morris and the gang performed "Cool" and "Jungle Love" and had everyone at the black-tie gala on their feet and many even doing The Bird like they were extras at First Avenue in Purple Rain. Their performance was a raucous finale to a momentous night that I was honored to witness.
Watch V. Bozeman and Keke Palmer's powerful performances right here, and continue to celebrate and support Black Excellence from Hollywood to your hood. (Fun fact: You'll see me in the audience in all the sequins and grooving to V. at the 2:35 mark.)