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Sunday, February 15, 2009

An NAACP Image Award for IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT---and a complete list of winners!!!

CAPTION: (left to right) Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes on the red carpet at the 40th NAACP Image Awards. Photo credit:

I’m excited to announce that Steven Barnes, Blair Underwood and I received the 2009 NAACP Image Award for our mystery collaboration In the Night of the Heat, the second novel in our Tennyson Hardwick mystery series! (I was also nominated for Blood Colony, my latest African Immortals novel.)

Wow. [For a complete list of winners announced Feb. 12, see the end of this entry.]

The other nominees in the category were my friend E. Lynn Harris for Just Too Good to be True, Bonnie Glover for Going Down South and James McBride for Song Yet Sung. Formidable competition, to say the least. So I didn’t expect to win—especially since the blessing of a double nomination meant that I was likely to split my voters.

I’ve only been nominated for an Image Award once before—for The Black Rose in 2001. I didn’t win. It was an amazing experience, and an eye-opening one: Since that night, I’ve watched the Oscars with much more empathy for the nominees who ALMOST got to take the statuette home.

This time, I told myself I was simply going to go and enjoy the ceremony at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. No expectations. My sister Lydia really wanted to fly in from Texas to support me, but she couldn’t arrange it—so I invited my friend Farai Chideya, an author and commentator. (Since Steve’s daughter, Nicki, couldn’t make it because of classes at UC Irvine, Steve invited his niece, Sharleen Higa.)

For almost a week, I was a ball of nerves. It took so much energy for me to prepare for the ceremony and the receptions and parties, I ended up writing notes for my acceptance speech in the car on the way. Even then, it felt like a foolish jinx to write anything at all.

The Novel category was presented in the pre-show, not televised live on Fox, but the pre-show had to run on time so that the live show could run on time later. (And no one wants to be the one cut off by the “get-off-the-stage” music they play at awards shows.)

We had 45 seconds for a speech. Blair had told us beforehand that if In the Night of the Heat won, he would accompany us to the stage, but he would leave the remarks to us. (Steve and I are the authors of the Tennyson Hardwick novels, and Blair is like our “producer,” with a strong hand in discussing content and the character who bears his face.)

Even split in half instead of thirds, that left only 22 seconds apiece for an acceptance speech.

And then there was the surreal element. When the name of our book was called, almost all rational thought fled my mind. I don’t remember the walk to the stage at all. All I know is that I ended up at the microphone first. I remember thanking my parents. I thanked Steve (“my collaborator and soul-mate.”) And I thanked Blair (“for his vision and a wonderful character in Tennyson Hardwick.”) And my editor, Malaika Adero at Atria Books. In retrospect, it seems as if I was just rattling off names.

Now that the fog of the day has cleared, I wish I’d had the time, or presence of mind, to say what the NAACP Image Award really means to me. My fantasy speech would have gone something like this:

“I stand here today on the 100th birthday of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, less than a month after the inauguration of the nation’s first black president, and I am humbled to receive this award.

First, I want to thank my parents, John Due and Patricia Stephens Due, who raised me and my sisters Johnita and Lydia to know our history—and to believe that an individual CAN change the world. For me, this is a homecoming. We were raised at NAACP meetings, attending NAACP conventions and demonstrations, and I was tested and trained as a young writer in the NAACP’s high school ACT-SO competition, founded by the late Vernon Jarrett.

I also want to give a special thank-you to the NAACP for being the only major Hollywood award that includes a Literary category! Thank you for recognizing that authors of fiction, non-fiction and poetry deserve a place at the Welcome Table, too.

I want to thank my collaborator and soul-mate Steven Barnes, an extraordinary teacher who has always given me room to fly. We have distinct voices in our solo work, but our collaborations have brought us new and surprising harmonies.

And thanks to Blair Underwood, who has taught us through example how to maintain grace and dignity in this battleground called Hollywood.

We conceived of the Tennyson Hardwick novels as a way to tell stories of healing and redemption that matter to all of us—while at the same time hoping to empower ourselves to have more control over how characters of color are portrayed on the screen.

We hope we are walking in the right direction.

Most importantly, thanks to God—who has brought us all thus far on the way. I have been blessed every day to make a living doing the thing I love. In these difficult economic times that are hitting writers hard, I cannot, and do not, take that for granted. I can only hope that through my writing I give back a portion of what has been given to me.”
Even that doesn’t sum it all up, but it’s closer.

The Image Awards included memorable performances by Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce and, along with a tribute to Nobel prize-winners Al Gore and Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai.

But my favorite moment was the tribute to Muhammad Ali, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and therefore could only sit on the stage. The crowd rose to its feet when he came into sight, and a booming chant erupted from the audience: “Ali! Ali! Ali!”

I was happy to have the chance to be in that room and shout the Champ’s name.



After we received our award, Blair ushered us out of the auditorium to walk the red carpet. Since red carpets are not a part of a writer’s normal life, we were happy for him to lead the way.

Even the walk out of the auditorium was great fun. As we passed through the rear, a gaggle of ladies who were fans of Blair’s let out appreciative, throaty hisses and calls, their voices just loud enough to be heard. “Hey, sexy!” “Love the book!”

Grinning, Blair turned to Steve and said, “See what happens when I hang out with y’all?” (Thanks, Blair—but book lovers or not, we doubt that the cloud of pheromones floating from those seats had much to do with our clever turns of phrase.)

Next, the red carpet, where a bank of about 40 photographers awaited. We stopped to pose at three spots along the carpet, and all the while the photographers tried to direct our gazes: “Blair, look up!” “Look left!” “Look right!” Flashbulbs strobed around us.

Other arrivals were posed behind us, and there were disgusted cries from the photographers when a publicist just behind Steve wouldn’t get out of the way of the shot.

Other arrivals that day included Halle Berry, Sean Combs, Dakota Fanning and a gaggle of other celebrities, so Blair made sure to explain who we were: “Image Award winners!” he said, and spelled our names out for them. When the cameras from “Access Hollywood” and “Entertainment Tonight” found Blair, he made sure we were included.

Not exactly a typical day in a writer’s life.

After the Image Awards, at one point we were standing fewer than five feet from Will Smith backstage, although we didn’t have a chance to speak to him—or his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, who was with him. At the after-party, Steve and I shared a table with actress CCH Pounder (“The Shield”) and actor Jeffrey Wright. I also stopped at NAACP chairman Julian Bond’s table to give him greetings from my parents, who know him as civil rights activists.

All in all, it was an unforgettable night.


Here is the complete list of 2009 NAACP Image Award winners.

Congratulations to all of the winners and Image Award nominees!

Outstanding Comedy Series
"Tyler Perry's House of Payne" (TBS)

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
LaVan Davis - "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" (TBS)

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
Tracee Ellis Ross - "Girlfriends" (CW)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Lance Gross
"Tyler Perry's House of Payne" (TBS)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Keshia Knight Pulliam - "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" (TBS)

Outstanding Drama Series
"Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Hill Harper - "CSI: NY" (CBS)

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
Chandra Wilson - "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Taye Diggs - "Private Practice" (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Angela Bassett - "ER" (NBC)

Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
"A Raisin in the Sun" (ABC)

Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Sean Combs - "A Raisin in the Sun" (ABC)

Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Phylicia Rashad - "A Raisin in the Sun" (ABC)

Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series
Bryton McClure - "The Young and the Restless" (CBS)

Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series
Debbi Morgan - "All My Children" (ABC)

Outstanding News/Information - Series or Special
"In Conversation: Michelle Obama Interview" (TVOne)

Outstanding Talk Series
"The View" (ABC)

Outstanding Reality Series
"American Idol 7" (FOX)

Outstanding Variety - Series or Special
"UNCF An Evening of Stars: Tribute to Smokey Robinson" (Syndicated)

Outstanding Children's Program
"Dora The Explorer" (Nickelodeon)

Outstanding Performance in a Youth/Children's Program - Series or Special
Keke Palmer - "True Jackson" (Nickelodeon)

Outstanding New Artist
Jennifer Hudson (Arista)

Outstanding Male Artist
Jamie Foxx (J Records)

Outstanding Female Artist
Beyoncé (MusicWorld/Columbia Records)

Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration
Jennifer Hudson feat. Fantasia - "I'm His Only Woman" (Arista)

Outstanding Jazz Artist
Natalie Cole - "Still Unforgettable" (DMI Records)

Outstanding Gospel Artist - Traditional or Contemporary
Mary Mary (Columbia Records)

Outstanding World Music Album
Cheryl Keyes - "Let Me Take You There" (Keycan Records)

Outstanding Music Video
"Yes We Can" - ( Music Group/Interscope)

Outstanding Song
"Yes We Can" - ( Music Group/Interscope)

Outstanding Album
Jennifer Hudson - "Jennifer Hudson" (Arista)

Outstanding Literary Work - Fiction
"In the Night of the Heat: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel" -
Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes (Simon & Schuster/Atria Books)

Outstanding Literary Work - Non-Fiction
"Letter to My Daughter" - Maya Angelou (Random House)

Outstanding Literary Work - Debut Author
"Barack, Race, and the Media: Drawing My Own Conclusion" -
David Glenn Brown (David G. Brown Studios)

Outstanding Literary Work - Biography/Auto-Biography
"The Legs Are the Last to Go" - Diahann Carroll (Amistad)

Outstanding Literary Work - Instructional
"32 Ways to Be a Champion in Business" - Earvin "Magic" Johnson (Crown Business)

Outstanding Literary Work - Poetry
"Hip Hop Speaks To Children: A Celebration of "Poetry With A Beat" -
Nikki Giovanni (Source Books/Jabberwocky)

Outstanding Literary Work - Children
"Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope" -
Nikki Grimes; Illustrator Bryan Collier (Simon & Schuster)

Outstanding Literary Work - Youth/Teens
"Letters to a Young Sister: Define Your Destiny" - Hill Harper (Gotham Books)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
Will Smith - "Seven Pounds" (Columbia Pictures)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
Rosario Dawson - "Seven Pounds" (Columbia Pictures)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Columbus Short - "Cadillac Records" (Sony Music Film/Parkwood Pictures)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Taraji P. Henson - "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount)

Outstanding Motion Picture
"The Secret Life of Bees" (Fox Searchlight)

Outstanding Independent Motion Picture
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight)

Outstanding Documentary (Theatrical or Television)
"The Black List" (HBO)

Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture
"The Class" (Sony Pictures Classics)

Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series
Ernest Dickerson - "Lincoln Heights: The Day Before Tomorrow" (ABC Family)

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series
Kevin Sullivan - "30 Rock: MILF Island" (NBC)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television)
Gina Prince-Bythewood -"The Secret Life of Bees" (Fox Searchlight Pictures

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television)
Jenny Lumet - "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)

Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series
Shonda Rhimes - "Grey's Anatomy: Freedom Part 1 & 2" (ABC)

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
Erica D. Montolfo - "The Game: White Coats and White Lies" (CW)


Ruth said...

I am so very proud to hear that you, your husband and Blair won the NAACP award for Fiction and proud of the proactive part you parents have played in your life and our struggle. You Go Girl

Shelia said...

Congratulations. I've read all of your work and you deserve the honor. I look forward to reading more in the series.

toni said...

Congratulations on the award. Totally deserving. That & Jeffrey Wright in one night? I couldn't take it! LOL

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Tananarive!! I hope the win motivates you, Blair and your husband Steven to continue on with the Tennyson Hardwick series, even more so now.

The 3 of you are producing a great body of work together. It is truly the greatest that I've ever read!

So please hurry and get started on the new Cape Town adventure.



Kofi Bofah said...

I did not know that you had a blog.

I LOVE Black Rose.

Kofi Bofah said...

And congratulations on your award.

Black Rose is on my bookshelf looking down on me right now...

Kofi Bofah said...

Hey - you might be interested in this:

Black History: Madam C.J. Walker, America's First Female Millionaire. What is Black Beauty?

I stumbled onto your blog and was motivated to write about this Great Woman.