This Is Why Black Awards Shows Must Happen

American Black Film Festival creator Jeff Friday told ESSENCE the reason why he created his own awards show to celebrate us. 
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While many mainstream outlets counted the Oscars as the end of award season, the Black community knew that was far from true. In fact, we had two more “for us, by us” celebrations in Los Angeles: The NAACP Image Awards and the American Black Film Festival Honors, held last month.

Both award shows are celebrations of Black talent across entertainment, activism and more, but the ABFF Honors specifically celebrates the achievements of Black artists in TV and film.

ESSENCE caught up with ABFF Honors and Festival creator Jeff Friday on the red carpet of the star-studded celebration, who said he began the organization 24 years ago, he “just knew something was off.” Friday recalled attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah all those years ago. He buzzed with excitement to be surrounded by so many film buffs and creatives, but was disheartened that the entire experience lacked melanin.

“We’re the most creative forces on Earth, but why aren’t we in this film space?” he asked himself.

So Friday created a Black film festival: the American Black Film Festival.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 23: (L-R) Jeff Friday, Nicole Friday, and Jamie Foxx attend the American Black Film Festival Honors Awards Ceremony at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 23, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

And while creating an award show to celebrate us is a huge accomplishment, it’s still not as highly regarded as the Oscars, Grammys, Screen Actors Guild Awards and the like outside of our community.

Friday thoughtfully shared, “We have the power to make all of our things most important. We don’t take the risk.”

What risk is that? According to Friday, it’s risking our very presence in these coveted rooms that prevents the NAACP Image Awards and ABFF Honors from being regarded as highly as the other big awards shows.

“If Black people stayed home or came out to the extent that we go to those other shows, it could happen in one year!” he explained. “We have the power to make our stuff better, we have to have a bit more courage about it. And someone’s got to lead the way and that’s part of what this really is about for me.”

Check out the video above to see what else Friday said about Black award shows.

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