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Hollywood Legends Unite at Essence Honorary Ceremony

Spike Lee, Sidney Poitier, Tyler Perry and Malcolm Lee

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “This is historic!” a photographer yelled as he surveyed the image before him — Sidney Poitier in the center, Spike Lee to his right, Tyler Perry to his left and more than two dozen other black men in Hollywood, from Blair Underwood to Omar Epps, huddled tight around the legend, posing with a purpose.

“We made it!” shouted out one participant as the men broke out into knowing laughter.

It was a night of many emotions as Essence magazine, known for celebrating black women, held its first ceremony honoring the achievements of African-American men in Hollywood in the days leading up to the Oscar ceremony. Poitier gave a moving tribute to the future and the past, Lee delivered a strong rebuke to what he called Hollywood’s exclusionary policies and Perry — who owns his own studio — implored blacks to break out on their own instead of waiting for an open door from the industry.

“If they close the door then break a hole in the freaking window,” said Perry to applause. “Find another way … there is more than one path.”

The event, held at Perry’s tony mansion, was conceived to mark what has been a stellar year for black filmmakers in cinema, and the black men behind those achievements: Malcolm Lee directed the box-office hit “The Best Man,” Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” is up for nine Academy Awards and Forest Whitaker executive produced the acclaimed “Fruitvale Station” and starred in the box-office smash “The Butler.”

All were lauded for their success at “Black Men in Hollywood” dinner, which singled out Spike Lee, Malcolm Lee (who is Spike’s cousin), Perry and Poitier, who received the legend award.

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