The 2022 NAACP Image Awards are shaping up to be a night to remember. In addition to Mary J. Blige performing and a handful of star-studded appearances, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were honored with the president's award on Saturday night. The award is given in recognition of special achievement and distinguished public service. Previous recipients include Muhammad Ali, John Legend, Jesse Jackson, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, LeBron James, Rihanna, JAY-Z, Lauryn Hill, and Soledad O'Brien.
Harry and Meghan began their speech by acknowledging the people of Ukraine and urging people to support them amid Russia's invasion. The duke also expressed his gratitude for not only the award, but to the community for welcoming him. "I think it's safe to say that I come from a very different background than my incredible wife, yet our lives were brought together for a reason," Harry said. "We share a commitment to a life of service, a responsibility to confront injustice, and a belief that the most often overlooked are the most important to listen to."
Meghan then said that she couldn't be prouder of all the philanthropic work she and Harry are doing together. "We moved to California, my home state, shortly before the murder of George Floyd, and for Black America, those nine minutes and 29 seconds transcended time, invoking centuries of our unhealed wounds. In the months that followed, as my husband and I spoke with the Civil Rights community, we committed ourselves and our organization, Archewell, to illuminating those who are advancing racial justice and progress."
Harry and Meghan announced that they partnered with the NAACP to create the NAACP Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award, which will be "given annually to leaders creating transformational change at the intersection of social justice and technology." The first award was presented last night to Dr. Safiya Noble, who is the cofounder of the UCLA Center For Critical Internet Inquiry, an author, and advocate. The Sussexes closed out their speech by emphasizing the importance of speaking out for what is right and to march for what is just.
"We're thrilled to present this award to Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who together have heeded the call to social justice and have joined the struggle for equity both in the US and around the world," President and CEO of the NAACP Derrick Johnson said in a statement. "Not only do they continue to lead by example, The Duke and Duchess have also decided to inspire the next generation of activists through the NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award, ensuring the support and recognition of generations of civil rights leaders to come."
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also previously released a statement of their own, saying, "It's a true honor to be recognized by President Derrick Johnson and the NAACP, whose efforts to propel racial justice and civil rights are as vital today as they were nearly 115 years ago. We're proud to support the NAACP's work and to also partner with the organization on the newly created annual NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award, which will be bestowed to Dr. Safiya Noble as part of the 53rd NAACP Image Awards."
The exciting news comes just one day after Harry filed a new libel claim against Associated Newspapers. It's unclear what the claim pertains to, but this certainly isn't the first time the royal has taken legal action against the media. In 2019, Harry sued News UK (which owns The Sun) and Mirror Group Newspapers over an alleged phone hacking. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have also sued photographers for taking unauthorized pictures of their 2-year-old son, Archie, at their former Los Angeles home. And back in December, Meghan won a significant legal battle against The Mail on Sunday after it invaded her privacy in 2019 by publishing a private letter she'd sent to her father, Thomas Markle, the year prior.