Whitaker, Hudson Win NAACP Awards

Best Actor Forest Whitaker and Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Hudson Best Actor Forest Whitaker and Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Hudson

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (March 3, 2007) — Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson kept their winning streaks alive Friday, while “Grey’s Anatomy” star Isaiah Washington claimed a best actor prize at the 38th annual NAACP Image Awards. “Ugly Betty” took top television honors.

Hudson, a former “American Idol” finalist, garnered a best supporting actress award for her role in the musical “Dreamgirls,” the same category she won at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

“There is nothing like being recognized and honored by your own,” said Hudson.

Whitaker, who won a best actor Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland,” earned the same prize at Friday’s ceremony, which honor projects and individuals who promote diversity in the arts.

“Doing this role gave me so many blessings,” said Whitaker, who plays a Ugandan dictator in the film. “One was being able to go back to Africa and touch my roots.”

Washington, who has been sharply criticized for uttering a gay slur on the set of his hit show, scored best actor for a drama series.

“I’m humbled and honored to be recognized by the NAACP,” said Washington, who announced earlier this year he would seek help after receiving a torrent of negative publicity for his comments.

“The first time I was up here I felt deserving of something,” he added. “This time I feel privileged.”

“The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith and his son, won best picture honors. Keke Palmer nabbed best actress for “Akeelah and the Bee,” and Djimon Hounsou took best supporting actor for “Blood Diamond.”

“This film means a lot to me for the simple reason that I’m from Africa,” said Hounsou to loud applause.

Rapper LL Cool J hosted the awards.

“I won’t ask you why the chicken crossed the road,” Cool J joked, telling the crowd it was his first time as a host. “I just ask that you bear with me. I’m going to try to carry this thing with dignity.”

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama won a literary nonfiction Image Award for his book “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.” Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, did not attend the ceremony.

Vanessa Williams got the nod for best supporting actress in a comedy for “Ugly Betty,” which also won for best television comedy series.

The show is “a story about family, about feeling like an outsider, and as African-Americans in this business know, often we feel like an outsider,” said Williams.

America Ferrera, who plays Betty, said the show was successful because American viewers were anxious to see a show that represented the country’s diverse communities.

“We knew theme would connect with the American people, who wanted to see fresh faces they can connect with on television,” said Ferrera.

Prince, who was awarded best male music artist, read a poem about protecting the environment.

“Fifty years from now what will they say about us?” Prince asked.

Chandra Wilson won best supporting actress in a drama series for “Grey’s Anatomy.” She said she wished her deceased father could have been with her, as Friday would have been his birthday.

“His little daughter is real happy to be standing here,” she said.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien was given the honorary President’s Award for her work as a journalist. Honorary recognition also included Bill Cosby’s induction into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame and the Chairman’s Award to Bono.

To repeated standing ovations, Bono talked about the need to eradicate poverty in the world.

“Today the world looks again to the NAACP,” said Bono. “We need the community that taught world about civil rights to teach it about human rights.”

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