Weeks after the announcement of this year's winners and honorees, the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) is set to formally present the honors during a private dinner on Sunday, Jan. 8, at Light Space Studio in Los Angeles. Among the recipients of the Special Achievement Award (for career achievement) are actor Richard Roundtree, filmmaker George Lucas, Sony Pictures Entertainment and actress Hattie Winston.
Winston told HuffPost BlackVoices she was thrilled to receive an email about the award.
"It's such a thrill, you can't put it into words. You hear people say that at various award shows, but it is indeed true," said Winston. "I have been very blessed because I've been doing this for a very long time. And in my case, sometimes it would seem that I was out there doing stuff alone. And whenever people would come up to me and say, 'We love your work, we saw you in thus and such,' it would just lift me up and give me courage to keep going."
"So to be recognized by this organization is indeed an honor, and I am honored because they are in the industry doing what they do," she added. "There are not that many of us that are in the positions that they're in, so I'm very pleased to be traveling along that road with them."
In choosing each year's honorees, AAFCA board members look for a well-balanced list of talent.
"It really does show the diversity of AAFCA, because when you say 'African-American film critics,' you think that the only films that they're going to be critiquing will be only African-American films, and that's not the case," said former NBC Universal executive and AAFCA Advisory Board member Debra Langford. "These are African-American professionals in this industry. And so what they're doing is nominating what they think have been the stellar performances of the year. Hopefully we will get to a time where many, many, many, if not all, of those honorees are African-American. But it's such a great mix of people and films that are really about good cinema."
Looking toward the future, AAFCA plans to turn its awards show into a larger-scale event. "We'll definitely be on TV within the next three to five years. And I would love to see AAFCA to be as much of a participating event as the Oscars or Golden Globes quite frankly," said Gil Robertson IV, president and founder of the group.
"But I think that as a community that it's important for us to embrace and to be gratified and fulfilled by recognition from our community," added Robertson, "and that's exactly what AAFCA offers."
Winston has certainly thought about the lasting message she wants to send, including with her acceptance speech. "I've been thinking about it, and what I want us to do is to be aware that whatever we put out, that it's there forever," she said. "And I want us to be very conscious of the images that we're leaving behind. I want us to always walk with dignity and to never just do it for the money."
"I made myself a promise years ago that I would never do anything that would embarrass my children," Winston continued. "I think we should keep the level of our craft to the highest art form. And then of course I want to be grateful and express my gratitude to people who have helped me along the way."