by Nina Shay

Each year, amid the OSCAR buzz in Tinseltown, Black Hollywood nests around two highly anticipated events to celebrate their own. The purpose is to recognize and reward the many works that often times go unnoticed in the elite world of entertainment.

February 14th, 2008, the 39th Annual NAACP Image Awards kicked off OSCAR week as it suited up to pay homage to its leading men and women of Hollywood. Billed as “the nation’s premier event celebrating the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice”, the Image Awards is reminiscent of the Screen Actor's Guild Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes, Oscars and Grammy's all rolled up into one.

As usual, the star-studded event did not disappoint. As most predicted, The Great Debaters won “Outstanding Motion Picture”. The film’s star, Oscar winner, Denzel Washington, took home “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture”. Newcomers, Jurnee Smollett and Denzel Whitaker nabbed Outstanding Actress and Outstanding Supporting Actor for their roles in The Great Debaters. Also among the many nominees were: Forest Whitaker, Don Cheatle and Taraji Henson for Talk to Me. Award Recipients included: Aretha Franklin (Vanguard Award), Ruby Dee (Chairman Award), Vanessa Williams for Outstanding Supporting Actress for Ugly Betty and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy went to Janet Jackson for Why Did I Get Married?

The second “hot ticket” in town took place on February 20th when Black Enterprise Magazine hosted its salute to the 25 Top Money Makers in Hollywood at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Although the event is more of a party than an award show, the evening served to remind us of the significance of honoring the “best in the business” while acknowledging the "unsung heroes" who play an important role in our lives. Highlights of the evening included yet another special presentation to veteran actress, Ruby Dee and special film recognition for American Gangster and Bucket List. Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Tyler Perry, Byron Allen, Queen Latifa were among those recognized and a who’s who in Black Hollywood were there to mix, mingle and congratulate!