Yesterday, Russell Simmons, the founder of modern hip-hop music that we know and love, received a major award at yesterday’s 40th annual NAACP Image Awards, alongside Jennifer Hudson, Rosario Dawson, and P-Diddy.
The NAACP Image Awards ceremony was established in 1967 to achieve “greater participation by African Americans in the entertainment industry and portrayal of Black people on the screen.” The ceremony was launched to fight against the inaccurate, racist portrayals of African Americans in films throughout history. For example, after the Civil War, a movie called “Birth of a Nation” was released which depicted African Americans as savages and heathens! Surely, nowadays, we all believe in racial equality, but do we act on the principle? Consider this: at the NAACP Image Awards in 2000, Steven Spielberg stated, “there’s a lot to be done in the world we share. We still must acknowledge the painful absence of racial diversity within our very own industry. We need to hire studio executives of color. We need to foster young minority talent, both in front of and behind the scenes.” Obviously, our world still needs to work on the issue of racial discrimination…
Though he is the ‘king of hip-hop,’ Russell Simmons’ award had nothing to do with Def Jam Recordings, Ludacris, or Kanye West; Simmons was given the Vanguard Award for “increas[ing] the NAACP’s understanding and awareness of racial and social issues.”
And no one deserved the prestigious award more than he. Since 1995, Simmons has instituted the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, an organization to fight poverty (called the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network) and a fund to promote education for economic growth in resource-rich countries in Africa (called the Diamond Empowerment Fund). He has also written a book about how to achieve happiness and success that was featured in “The New York Times Top 5 Bestseller List.” As if that weren’t enough, he currently chairs the non-profit organization, “The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.”
Congratulations, wonderful prize-winners, for your achievements in entertainment; what a great way to commemorate Black History Month!
By CGG Contributing Reporter Shamsa Mangalji