At the 29th NAACP Image Awards, a glittering salute to the biggest names in black entertainment and the promotion of positive images of people of color, the standout winners were the movie "Soul Food," with five awards, and CBS' "Touched by an Angel," with four wins in the television categories.
Another big winner was Steven Spielberg's "Amistad," which took home trophies for outstanding actor in a motion picture (Djimon Hounsou) and outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture (Morgan Freeman) in ceremonies Saturday at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
The awards--determined by the national membership of National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People from a list of nominees chosen by industry professionals and NAACP officials--recognized some time-honored legends along with new talent at the ceremonies.
Not even the almost complete absence of African American nominees for the Academy Awards--which director Spike Lee criticized last week--was able to cast a shadow over the night.
"The fact that ["Soul Food"] didn't make it doesn't make this film any less," said singer-songwriter-producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, the film's executive producer, who picked up Image Awards for entertainer of the year and outstanding male musical artist.
"I'm not hurting at all that it wasn't in [the running for] the Oscars. We won tonight, and this is the most important award to us."
"Soul Food's" five awards were for outstanding motion picture, outstanding actress in a motion picture (Vanessa L. Williams), outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture (Irma P. Hall), outstanding youth actor (Brandon Hammond) and outstanding album for its soundtrack.
In the television categories, "Touched by an Angel" won for outstanding drama series, outstanding actress in a drama series (Della Reese), outstanding supporting actor in a drama series (Louis Gossett Jr.) and outstanding supporting actress in a drama series (Lynn Whitfield).
"Living Single," which is in its final year on Fox, won for outstanding comedy series and outstanding actress in a comedy series (Erika Alexander).
Recording artist Erykah Badu, who was nominated for seven awards, picked up trophies for outstanding new artist and outstanding female artist for her breakout album "Baduizm."
Badu told the audience she was proud to receive the award from the NAACP, "not because I'm pretty, not because I can sing, but because I'm right and exact."
Later, she explained the comment: "I am definitely an example and an alternative for young black people. Every day of my life I'm striving to be true to myself."
In two nods to the past, the voters recognized recording artists the Isley Brothers and Nancy Wilson with Hall of Fame Awards.
The ceremonies, co-hosted by Vanessa L. Williams and Gregory Hines, will air March 5 on Fox.