UM, ‘Empire’ Star Slated for NAACP Honors

Campus chapter, actor/singer Jussie Smollett among prestigious Chairman's Award recipients

Apparently, some type of connection exists between the University of Mississippi and the Fox TV megahit drama “Empire.”

For starters, a UM broadcast communications specialist once interned for the popular show’s casting director. Then, a former Ole Miss women’s basketball star-turned-actress had a cameo appearance on the program’s mid-season winter finale in December. Now, it appears representatives from UM’s chapter of the NAACP and rising “Empire” star Jussie Smollett will both be receiving the Chairman’s Award when the 47th annual NAACP Image Awards airs Feb. 5.

The university’s NAACP chapter is being recognized for its successful student-led campaign to remove the Mississippi state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem in its upper left corner, from campus.

Smollett, who plays singer-songwriter Jamal Lyon on “Empire,” has been an activist for civil rights, HIV-AIDS awareness and social issues since he was 15. He is being honored for his volunteer work with such nonprofits as the Black AIDS Institute, Artists for a New South Africa and the United Negro College Fund. Recently, Smollett interrupted his performance at the BET Awards to speak out about the Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage.

Other recipients of the Chairman’s Award include the Justice League NYC, the University of Missouri Concerned Student 1950 Collective, Brittany “Bree” Newsome, the Rev. Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III and the Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley.

“It is a rare privilege for me to present the NAACP Chairman’s 2016 Award to an outstanding group of trailblazing leaders all under the age of 50 who have given voice and vision to the mantra that black lives matter,” said Roslyn Brock, chairman of the NAACP national board of directors. “The five individuals and three organizations have raised awareness of social, educational and economic injustice from college campuses, church pulpits and the streets, and exemplify what this award symbolizes: ‘Courage will not skip this generation.’”

The Image Awards will air live from the Pasadena Civic Center on TV One, beginning at 6 p.m.

To read more about the UM NAACP receiving the Chairman’s Award, visit here. To read more about the 47th annual NAACP Image Awards, go to