ABFF Honors Salutes Kerry Washington, Courtney B. Vance, Charles D. King and Janelle Monáe (EXCLUSIVE)

The 2023 American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Honors is set to recognize Kerry Washington, Courtney B. Vance, Charles D. King and Janelle Monáe with special honors during the annual award ceremony saluting excellence in the motion picture and television industry.

Washington, an Emmy winner and SAG and Golden Globe-nominated actor, director and producer, will be presented with the Excellence in the Arts Award (Female), while two-time Emmy winner Vance will accept the award for Excellence in the Arts (Male). MACRO founder and CEO King will be presented the Industry Leadership Award, while eight-time Grammy-nominated artist, producer and actor Monáe receives the Renaissance Award. Kasi Lemmons’ 1997 drama “Eve’s Bayou” will be honored with the Classic Cinema Award.

The fifth ABFF Honors will take place on Sunday, March 5, hosted by Emmy-nominated writer, actor and comedian Deon Cole. The intimate, non-televised dinner and award ceremony is executive produced by Nicole and Jeff Friday (under their ABFF Ventures company) in association with Rikki Hughes (for Magic Lemonade) and de Passe Jones Entertainment.

“This year’s ABFF Honorees, Courtney, Kerry, Janelle and Charles, are unquestionably amongst the best in our industry and it brings us a great deal of pleasure to illuminate their stellar careers,” said Jeff Friday, ABFF Ventures founder and CEO, in a statement announcing the special honorees. “Kasi Lemmons’ ‘Eve’s Bayou’ is a cinematic gem that deserves this recognition in its 25th anniversary year.”

Written and directed by Lemmons in her feature directorial debut, “Eve’s Bayou” was produced by Caldecot Chubb and Samuel L. Jackson. The Trimark Pictures film stars Jurnee Smollett in the lead role, with the story told through the eyes of 10-year-old Eve Batiste as she discovers her family existence is merely a façade over the course of a long, hot summer in Louisiana. The acclaimed cast includes Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Meagan Good (in her first film role), Debbi Morgan, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Roger Guenveur Smith and the late Diahann Carroll. Upon its release in 1997, “Eve’s Bayou” won the Film Independent Spirit Award for best first feature and received seven NAACP Image Award nominations, including best picture. In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

Previous award recipients at the ABFF Honors include Denzel Washington, Ava DuVernay, Regina King, Tiffany Haddish, Ryan Coogler, Don Cheadle, Will Packer, Queen Latifah, Lena Waithe, Terrence Howard, F. Gary Gray, Billy Dee Williams, Issa Rae, Omari Hardwick, Louis Gossett, Jr., the late Diahann Carroll and the casts of “Martin,” “The Wire,” “Hollywood Shuffle” and “Love Jones.”

Washington is best known for her barrier-breaking career in film, television, theater, digital media, advocacy and more. In her role as crisis manager Olivia Pope on the hit ABC drama “Scandal,” Washington made history as the first Black woman to headline a network TV drama, earning two Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe nomination, a SAG nomination and two NAACP Image Awards for her work. Washington also produced (under her Simpson Street banner) the Emmy, Critics’ Choice, and WGA award-nominated TV movie “Confirmation,” in which she portrayed Anita Hill, as well as the Hulu series “Little Fires Everywhere,” for which she earned Emmy and SAG award-nominations for her starring role opposite Reese Witherspoon. Simpson Street has also produced “Five Points,” “American Son,” and the Emmy-winning second edition of the ABC’s “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” which re-imagined the classic sitcoms “All in the Family” and “Good Times.”

Washington most recently starred in Netflix’s “The School for Good and Evil,” and will next be seen in “Unprisoned,” a comedy series for Disney’s Onyx Collective on Hulu, which she also serves as an executive producer, as well as the upcoming Lionsgate film “Shadow Force,” which she both stars in and executive produces. Washington will also produce and leads the cast of Tyler Perry’s World War II drama “Six Triple Eight” for Netflix.

Vance is a Harvard scholar and Yale School of Drama-trained actor whose stellar career on stage and screen have been rewarded with two Emmy Awards, a Tony Award and a Grammy nomination, among other accolades. Vance’s Emmy wins can be credited to his stunning portrayal of Johnnie Cochran in “The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” — which also earned him Critics Choice and NAACP Image awards, as well as SAG and Golden Globe nominations — and for his role on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.” Last year, Vance won an NAACP Image Award for his portrayal of C.L. Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s father, on Nat Geo’s “Genius: Aretha.”

He most recently starred in AMC Network’s “61st Street” and will next appear in “Heist 88,” a feature film in which he stars and produces under Bassett/Vance Productions, which he co-founded with his wife Angela Bassett. For his stage work, Vance won the Tony Award for best featured actor in a play for his performance in “Lucky Guy” in 2013 and received two other nominations for his work in “Fences” and “Six Degrees of Separation.” In 2019, Vance was nominated for a Grammy for his narration of “Accessory to War.”

King is best known as the founder and CEO of MACRO, a multi-platform media company that represented the voice and perspectives of Black, Indigenous and people on camera and behind the scenes, under the company’s business verticals including MACRO Film Studios, MACRO Television Studios, M88, UNCMNN and MaC Venture Capital. Formerly a partner/senior agent a William Morris Endeavor, King was the first-ever Black partner in the company’s more than 100-year history and the first Black partner at any major talent agency. When “Judas and the Black Messiah” was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture in 2021, King again made history, along with Ryan Coogler and director Shaka King, as the first all-Black team of producers to be nominated for the award. Overall, MACRO’s film projects have garnered 15 Oscar nominations and three wins.

Monáe’s selection as the Renaissance Award honorees comes on the heels of the visionary artist, producer, author and actor’s award-winning performance in the Netflix sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (Monáe was named best supporting actress by the National Board of Review, among other accolades.) The eight-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter also recently announced the release of the new single “Float,” which will debut on Feb. 16, in advance of a brand new album.

Monáe has also recently been honored for her work as both an artist and an advocate, presented with the Critics Choice’s 2023 SeeHer Award last month and honored by The Trevor Project as their Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year last fall. Monáe serves as a co-chair to Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, and established the initiative, Fem the Future, which aims to create opportunities for young creatives. Her first novel, “The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories from Dirty Computer,” a collaborative effort between Monáe and other writers, debuted on the New York Times bestseller list in April 2022.

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