For Release: March 8, 2004
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106
Black Conservatives Commend NAACP for Reversing Position and Considering Morals Clause for Future "Image Award" Nominees Criticism of Controversial R. Kelly Nomination Catalyst for Positive Change
Members of the black conservative organization Project 21 are applauding the NAACP for "seeing the light" by determining that a morals clause may be warranted for future NAACP "Image Award" nominations.
The goal of the NAACP's annual Image Awards is to honor "those who strive for the portrayal of positive images and meaningful opportunities for African-Americans."
Project 21 played a leading role in bringing public attention to the NAACP's nomination of controversial musician R. Kelly for an Image Award this year in the best album category.
R. Kelly -- Robert Sylvester Kelly -- was nominated in the "Outstanding Album" category for his 2003 "Chocolate Factory" album. However, the musician made headlines in 2002 for his indictment on 21 child pornography counts (seven of which have since been dropped) in Illinois. He's also facing child pornography charges in Florida.
Appearing on the Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" on January 14, Project 21 member Mychal Massie questioned the appropriateness of honoring Kelly at this time, and called the NAACP "out of touch" with the needs of black America. Subsequent criticism from Project 21 of the NAACP on this matter appeared in more than 95 African-American and establishment newspapers, magazines and entertainment industry websites.
As recently as a month ago, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume defended the process by which R. Kelly was nominated. Mfume's position now has changed -- for the better, says Project 21.
This year's Image Award winners were announced March 6 and the awards ceremony will be broadcast live on Fox on March 11. Luther Vandross won the award in the best album category.
As E! Online reported March 7: "Vandross' win for best album avoided a potentially embarrassing moment for the NAACP. The civil rights group had been under fire after R. Kelly, who is facing child-pornography charges in two states, was nominated for his 'Chocolate Factory.' Critics complained that Kelly's nomination tainted the whole idea of the Image Awards -- which are given out to artists who reflect a positive image of African-Americans and other ethnic minorities in show business -- leading to NCAAP President President Kweisi Mfume to call for a change in how contenders are selected."
But previously, Mfume had defended R. Kelly's nomination, and compared critics to members of Saddam Hussein's former regime. As the Wilmington Journal reported February 7: "NAACP President Kweisi Mfume disagreed that the 'Chocolate Factory' nomination would cast a negative light on the organization. 'We have to remember that we are Americans, not Iraqis, and believe in the presumption of innocence,' Mfume said. 'It's up to the court to decide. This is not a humanitarian award... These are the Image Awards. I think we have to let the process run its course and allow the members to vote.'"
At its quarterly board meeting on February 21, the NAACP leadership began a process to change the way artists will be nominated for future Image Awards. Admitting that many past nominees "fail to meet the standards for positive images," Mfume said, "It's more important that Image Awards nominees be able to do more than sing, dance, write and act."
Project 21 member Massie responds to Mfume's and the NAACP leadership's change of heart: "We are pleased that the more rational elements with the NAACP have prevailed and are looking into a morals clause pursuant to the goals of the Image Awards. It should be viewed as nothing less than lamentable that an organization with such an august beginning allowed irrational minds to permit this embarrassment to happen in the first place."
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or Project21@nationalcenter.org, or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.
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