JAY-Z Receives The NAACP President’s Award For His Social Activism (Video)

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This past weekend (March 30) in Hollywood, California, the 50th NAACP Image Awards were held at the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Winners from the event include Donald Glover (both for his FX series, Atlanta as well as his powerful music video for, “This Is America”), Bruno Mars for “Outstanding Male Artist,” H.E.R. for “Outstanding Female Artist,” and the Kendrick Lamar-led soundtrack, Black Panther: The Album. One of the ceremony’s most prestigious awards, The President’s Award, was given to JAY-Z.

In a statement released by the NAACP on Friday (March 29), association President Derrick Johnson discussed the importance of the award, and Jay’s role as 2019’s recipient. “The President’s Award is an honor we carefully bestow upon an individual, maintaining its significance and commitment to recognizing excellence in service that directly affects our community,” says Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP. “Shawn Carter has been committed to shedding light on the issues that plague the Black community including systematic racism and unjust treatment under the law, utilizing his global platform to create everlasting change. There is no better time than now, as we celebrate our 50th year, to honor him with this award.”

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Further, the statement describes JAY-Z’s commitment to the greater community. “Shawn ‘JAY-Z’ Carter continues to use his platform for social good, intertwining his art and activism, through the work of his Shawn Carter Foundation and serving as co-founder of The REFORM Alliance. He was instrumental in bringing to life Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, which shed deeper light on the impact of the verdict felt round the world, a mini-series on the tragic effect of solitary confinement as seen through TIME: The Kalief Browder Story, and also the animated documentary short, The War On Drugs Is An Epic Fail, highlighting the unjust treatment of people of color, specifically Blacks and Latinos, as it relates to drug related crimes.”

On stage, Derrick Johnson commended JAY-Z for his artistic and activist successes, and the impact he has during a trying time in the United States. Johnson states, “But for us at this critical time in our history he [JAY-Z] has become a driving force as a founding partner of the reform new initiative dedicated to changing the unfair and unjust laws for the millions of Americans currently on parole and probation.” Following his brief introduction, Johnson then handed Jay the award.

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At the podium, JAY-Z opened his speech with humor. “So I think I’ma start by saying a quote by our very humble and kindhearted President…I was talking about Donald Glover.” To follow, Hov recited a classic quote from a former White House leader. Jay continued, “Abraham Lincoln had a quote that said, ‘It’s not the amount of years in your life, it’s the amount of life in your years that count in the end.’ And that quote embodies my beautiful grandmother who I would like to dedicate this award to, Hattie White. She’s 93 years old. She is so full of life and she among other accomplishments, being super great and very tough, she raised seven kids [in] one little walk-up in Brooklyn. 615 Lexington, started my life. On top of that, her kids had kids and we all were raised in the same house. One household.”

Jay then spoke about how witnessing his grandmother’s strength to hold the family together, and her attitude towards life’s struggles, molded him into the man he is today. Jay recalled a recent conversation he had with her that made him change his entire speech. “So I was speaking to her the other day. I had a different speech prepared, and I just threw that away after I spoke to her. I asked her. I said, ‘How much money did you make?’ And she made $20 a week. And she said, ‘No, but it was fine. You could do a lot with $20 those days.'”

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JAY-Z proceeded, “And with that sort of attitude, that’s where I grew up. That’s how I grew up with those, her, and my mother, Gloria Carter, that in my household. What can I do? I grew up believing I could do anything, that I could accomplish anything because of those strong women in my house. So, I’d like to dedicate this award to those beautiful women. I’d like to dedicate this award to the beautiful woman in my life, Miss Beyoncé.”

Jay then wrapped up his speech the way he started, with a little more comedy. “Thank you to the NAACP for allowing me to forward this so she can put it on her mantle next to her favorite grandson. And then when she’s sneaking pork and her legs swell up, she can remember how much of a G she is.”

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Last year, the award was presented to Danny Glover in a long line of previous winners that includes John Legend, Spike Lee, Lauryn Hill, Ella Fitzgerald, Muhammad Ali, and many others.