The 2016 Triumph Awards presented by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network returned to TV One on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. ET, to recognize the accomplishments of change agents through civil rights, the arts, entertainment and business. Actress and advocate Tichina Arnold (“Survivor’s Remorse”) returned to host this year’s broadcast, filmed on Sunday, Sept. 18 at the historic Tabernacle in Atlanta, Ga.
“Our commitment now is to protect the legacy of Barack Obama and fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. “Some of our honorees’ works and activism have been displayed on the center stage for all the world to experience firsthand, while other’s efforts have lacked the oh-so worthy public exposure. We will be spotlighting these special individuals and their many contributions to the advancement of African Americans everywhere.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump was presented the “Chairman’s Award for Historic and Transformative Service” for his dedication to fighting and defending the masses – including Trayvon Martin and Tobbie Tolan – against the legal injustices that plague their communities. Terri J. Vaughn and Rev. Dr. Toussaint King Hill, Jr. introduced evangelist and accomplished gospel music artist Jekalyn Carr who gave an inspiring performance of “You Are Bigger,” bringing the entire audience to their feet.
In a stirring speech, Crump issued a rallying cry to the community at large to advocate for our youth, stating, “It’s not enough just to try to stop the killing of our children, but we must also fight for the life of our children and give them the promise that is guaranteed by the Constitution.”
An emotional highlight of the evening honored Gwen Carr (mother of Eric Garner), Lesley McSpadden (mother of Mike Brown) and Sybrina Fulton (mother of Trayvon Martin), collectively known as Mothers of the Movement, who shared their heart-wrenching experiences of loss and tragedy in hopes of empowering the nation. Paying tribute to these women of strength, resilience and unique purpose brought together by unspeakable tragedy, BJ The Chicago Kid performed a soul-stirring rendition of his hit single “Woman’s World.”
Fulton requested the community’s collective support as the mothers “Continue to unite… we are going to continue to strengthen ourselves, we are going to continue to be strong… continue to let our light shine, we are going to continue to stand for our young people.”
Larenz Tate (House of Lies) presented the “Triumphant Man of the Year” award to Jermaine Dupri for his contributions in music and artist development as well as mentorship of young artists. The SoSo Def Dancers performed their way through a musical timeline including the biggest hit singles Dupri produced over his career which, began when as a 12-year-old child, he went on his first concert tour.
The honor of “Triumphant Woman of the Year” was introduced by Erica Ash (Survivor’s Remorse, Jean of the Joneses) and Dondre Whitield (Queen Sugar), while legendary singer Dionne Warwick took the stage to share a few words of admiration for FedEx executive Gina F. Adams for her work progressing her industry and lending support to causes targeting education, youth and arts within their curriculum.
Actor and recording artist Fonzworth Bentley was on hand to present the “President’s Award for Service and Humanitarian Efforts” to Sean “Diddy” Combs who recently used his platform as entertainment icon for greater good by co-founding the opening of Capital Prepatory Harlem charter school based in his childhood neighborhood.
Tim Murray of Mastercard accepted the honor of “Corporate Partner of The Year Award” as a result of their efforts educating and empowering middle and low income communities to attain financial stability.
The final award of the evening was the “Activism in the Arts Award” presented to Spike Lee by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Vietta Johnson, President of Spellman College Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell and actress Teyonah Parris (The Miki Howard Story, ChiRaq) for his generous contribution of time and resources to support the education and production of original films by aspiring filmmakers. Reflecting on his love of film encouraged throughout his upbringing by various women in his life, most notably his mother who introduced him to the arts including movies, Lee urged parents to “Give your children exposure to the arts.”
Rev. Sharpton gave special recognition to several Take Action Heroes, the unsung champions whose quiet but impactful efforts supporting the mission of the National Action Network in their communities have warranted public exposure. Erica Thomas was acknowledged by Denise Boutee and Pooch Hall from the upcoming TV One film Media, for her work guiding important discussions between young people on solutions to their pressing issues. Rev. Dr. Steffie Bartley, Sr. was thanked for his work with law enforcement encouraging diversity. Political journalist and activist Marc Lamont Hill praised Jennifer Jones Austin for her work focused on securing positive policy reforms for human services throughout New York City and New York State.
The evening includes rousing live performances to punctuate the inspirational mood, including a spoken word performance by Nick Cannon who delivered an original spoken word piece titled “Too Broke To Vote” to passionately communicate his discontent with the current state of the campaign season. R&B crooner Joe took the stage to perform “Mercy Mercy Me,” one of the most poignant anthems of sorrow of its time that remains a timely reminder of the work still remaining today.Eric Benet performed a touching memorial tribute to many notable individuals who have passed this year by singing “Keep Your Head ToThe Sky.”
Juan and Deborah Joy Winans, two members of the Winans gospel music dynasty kept the spirit-filled vibe going with their performance of “Lord Lift Us Up.”
Cee-Lo Green introduced the rising music star V-Bozeman, who performed “Race Jones,” a pro-black anthem on self-love. The James Brown Academy of Music Pupils performed “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” encouraging the audience to stand up for their rights. Tichina Arnold, JB Smoove, Carl Payne, Erica Ash and Teyonah Parris joined forces to perform “Spike Lee Joint Medley,” a hilarious musical tribute.
Soul singer Fantasia brought the evening to a climactic and uplifting finale with the performance of her hit single “Lose to Win.”
The night of excellence included additional appearances by actor JB Smoove and WNBA Atlanta Dream player Angel McCoughtry. Radio personality Ebony Steele served as the voice of the show, keeping the pace moving and giving viewers a rare glimpse of the activity backstage between segments.
The 2016 Triumph Awards is Executive Prodcued by Bart Phillips of Sunseeker Media and Eric Tomosunas with Keith Neal of Swirl Films. Robyn Greene Arrington is Executive in Charge of Production. Lamar Chase serves as Producer and D’Angela Proctor is Head of Original Programing and Production for TV One.