In less than 10 days, five albums will vie for the Outstanding Gospel album of 2013 at the 45th NAACP Image Awards 2014.
Tamela Mann's album "Best Days," Hezekiah Walker's "Azusa," Donald Lawrence's "Best for Last," Shirley Caesar's "Good God" and the soundtrack from the film "Black Nativity" are all nominated for Outstanding Gospel Album.
One of the 54 competitive categories at this annual award show presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Image Awards honors the achievements of minorities in motion picture, television, recording and literature.
"A lot of times we [gospel artists] will have music and due to the lyrical content, we don't always have the same opportunities as other genres. This event gives us the platform to be celebrated," says Kirk Franklin, a multiple NAACP Image Award winner. Franklin earned his award for Outstanding Gospel Artist in 1999. Two years ago, he added another statuette to his collection, winning an Outstanding Gospel Album for "Hello Fear."
Previous winners in the gospel category include Yolanda Adams who has won four times, gospel duo Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, BeBe & CeCe Winans.
First presented in 1967, the NAACP Image Awards have included many entertainment celebrities as well as political figures and dignitaries. Former Vice President Al Gore and then-Senator Barack Obama are previous recipients of their Chairman's Award, an honorary award presented each year to individuals in recognition of their special achievement and public service. This year, Forest Whitaker will receive the accolade for his humanitarian work.
Scheduled to host this year's show is Anthony Anderson. LL Cool J., Cedric the Entertainer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Steve Harvey and Chris Tucker have served as hosts since 1994 when the first NAACP Image Awards was nationally televised on the Fox Network.
An award show established at the height of the civil rights movement by NAACP's Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch who were concerned about the lack of recognition for minorities in entertainment, it has grown into a prestigious event.
"They celebrate and promote diversity and honor a lot of people who won't get honored otherwise," shares multiple award winning actress Tatyana Ali who received her third Image Award for her role in the CBS drama "The Young the Restless" at the 44th Awards ceremony.
In a recent open letter slamming the Grammys on her twitter page, singer/songwriter and Image Awards recipient, India Arie, stressed the need for the NAACP Image Awards. It's a sentiment echoed by Terry Crews ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine") who has previously been nominated for several awards for his role in the TV show "Everybody Hates Chris."
"The Oscars, Grammys and the Golden Globes like us now, but before the NAACP what did we have?" asks Crews. "Some people think it's outdated because you have black people winning Oscars, but this is more than just entertainment. It is literature and you are honoring dignitaries and people of color who are making a difference. It's a big, big deal."
Despite its popularity, the NAACP Image Awards has been the subject of controversy due to prior claims that certain nominees were undeserving of NAACP attention. In 1994, rapper Tupac Shakur was a nominee for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for the film "Poetic Justice" following sexual assault charges in December 1993. This caused a huge uproar among mainstream feminist leaders who lobbied for the NAACP to reconsider. Following that in 1994, R. Kelly's album "Chocolate Factory" was nominated for Outstanding Album while the singer was under indictment for charges related to child pornography. In response, the NAACP argued that the quality of an artist's work is the salient issue, with factors such as criminal charges inconsequential. Brows were also raised in 2009 when Sean 'P.Diddy' Combs received the Outstanding Actor accolade for his portrayal of 'Walter Lee' in the television drama "A Raisin in the Sun". The actor in his first major movie role was up against thespians Andre Braugher and Charles S. Dutton.
"My faith is my secret weapon," Diddy told reporters backstage after he won. "My belief in God is the secret to my success. When I started on the journey as an actor people didn't think I could accomplish it but you put your faith in God."
This year, the organization failed to nominate Barkhad Abdi, the Somalian actor who played a pirate opposite Tom Hanks in the movie "Captain Phillips." It's a snub which executive co-producer of the Image Awards, Reginald Hudlin even found shocking.
"That was so crazy," Hudlin said. "He gave an extraordinary performance and it always amazes me when I look over the list. I am happy for the folks who are nominated, but there are always people omitted and you wonder why."
Nominees for the 45th NAACP Image Awards include Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, India Arie, Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Sofia Vergara and Kerry Washington.
Tyler Perry, Arsenio Hall, Gabrielle Union, Octavia Spencer, Dennis Haysbert are some of the celebrities slated to present awards. Paris Barclay and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American Presidents of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, respectively, will be inducted into the Image Awards Hall of Fame.
Winners will be announced during a two-hour TV One telecast held at the Pasadena Auditorium, CA on Saturday, Feb 22.