‘The Help’ Gets Three Prizes at 43rd NAACP Image Awards

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer“The Help” collected three prizes at the
NAACP Image Awards, including top actress honors for Viola Davis, the
supporting actress prize for Octavia Spencer and outstanding motion

Pictured: Octavia
Spencer, left, and Viola Davis pose in the audience at the 43rd NAACP
Image Awards on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris

Davis and Spencer have
collected armloads of accolades for their work in the film about black
maids who speak out against their white employers during the civil
rights movement. Both are up for Academy Awards next week.

Davis said the film has “just been the joy of my life.”

“I found my voice,” she said. “I just emerged through `The Help.'”

ceremony Friday at the Shrine Auditorium, which honored diversity in
the arts, was punctuated by moving tributes to Whitney Houston, the
Black Stuntmen’s Association and George Lucas and the Tuskegee Airmen.

Yolanda Adams sang the spiritual song “I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cry” as part of a tribute to Houston, who died last week.

“We love you, Nip,” Adams said as she finished the song, referring to the singer’s nickname.

of Houston accepting the Image Award for outstanding female artist in
1994 was shown, as was Denzel Washington’s presentation of that award,
in which he called her an “artist of unparalleled stature.”

Poitier and Harry Belafonte presented the President’s Award to the
Black Stuntmen’s Association, which was established in 1967 to break
racial barriers and earn black performers a place alongside white
stuntmen in film and television.

They preceded their presentation with a comic exchange on stage.

“We are not stuntmen,” said Poitier, 85.

“Sidney, just the fact that we’re standing here, we could be stuntmen,” the 84-year-old Belafonte quipped.

Some of the original members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association were on hand to accept the award.

L. Jackson presented Lucas with the Vanguard Award. The filmmaker was
honored for his body of work, including the recent “Red Tails,” which
tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, several of whom were in the
audience. While some of the elderly airmen struggled to stand, the
audience rose to their feet to welcome them with a standing ovation.

said he made the film to be inspirational, patriotic and to “show that
everybody has contributed to building this country into what it is

In presenting the award, Jackson said
he has always loved “Star Wars” and would have done anything to appear
in an installment of the space story. He recalled telling Lucas: “I’ll
be a Storm Trooper and just run across the screen. Nobody even has to
know I’m in it.”

Jackson went on to play Mace Windu in the three “Star Wars” prequels.

part of the tribute to Lucas, Jennifer Hudson and Ne-Yo performed
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” while Lucas sang along from his seat.

Hudson was also a winner Friday, claiming the outstanding album prize for “I Remember Me.”

winners announced during the two-hour telecast hosted by Sanaa Lathan
and Anthony Mackie included Regina King, named outstanding actress for
her work in the drama “SouthLAnd,” and Tracee Ellis Ross and
Malcolm-Jamal Warner for their lead roles in the comedy “Reed Between
the Lines.”

Radio pioneer Cathy Hughes
accepted the Chairman’s Award at a separate ceremony in New Jersey that
was included in the broadcast on NBC.

singer Kirk Franklin closed the program with a version of Houston’s “The
Greatest Love of All” before launching into his uplifting song,

The Image Awards are presented
annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People, and the group’s members select the winners. As she accepted her
award, King thanked the organization for “continuously providing a stage
to recognize and applaud us.”

“We need it,” the “SouthLAnd” star said. “There is some magnificent talent here that would not be recognized otherwise.”

AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/APSandy .