ABFF Honors 2020: Louis Gossett Jr. and Lena Waithe to Receive Special Hollywood Trailblazer Honors

Louis Gossett Jr. at the Farrah Fawcett Foundation’s “Tex-Mex Fiesta” 2017 on Sept. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles; Lena Waithe attends Variety’s Creative Impact Awards and 10 Directors to Watch Brunch on Jan. 3, 2020, in Palm Springs, Calif.
Louis Gossett Jr. at the Farrah Fawcett Foundation’s “Tex-Mex Fiesta” 2017 on Sept. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles; Lena Waithe attends Variety’s Creative Impact Awards and 10 Directors to Watch Brunch on Jan. 3, 2020, in Palm Springs, Calif.
Photo: Brandon Williams (Getty Images for the Farrah Fawcett Foundation), Rich Fury (Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival)

Just about every award ceremony hands out awards, then also hands out extra special awards that stand out from the routine awards. For example, the Golden Globes have their Cecil B. DeMille Award and the Grammys have their Lifetime Achievement Award.


The blackest film festival to ever do it, the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) has its own special awards as well—the Hollywood Legacy Award and the Industry Renaissance Award. This year, the Hollywood Legacy Award will be going to Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. and the Industry Renaissance Award will go to Emmy Award winner Lena Waithe.

“We’re honored to celebrate these two extraordinary talents,” ABFF Ventures CEO Jeff Friday said in a press release. “These awards not only recognize how Mr. Gossett’s contributions have propelled the industry forward but also acknowledge a new generation of trailblazers in people like Ms. Waithe, who will continue to create change and new opportunities in film and television for people of color.”

From the ABFF press release:

Louis Gossett Jr. has been disrupting Hollywood for over 40 years making his film debut alongside Sidney Poitier in the 1961 classic A Raisin in the Sun. Gossett Jr. was the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his unforgettable performance as drill Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman. Additionally, he has been nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards, three Golden GlobeⓇ Awards, five NAACP Images Awards, two Daytime Emmy Awards and in 1992 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Other notable film and television credits include The Deep, Blue Chips, Daddy’s Little Girls, Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?, Firewalker, Jaws-3D, Enemy Mine, Iron Eagle, Extant, Madam Secretary, Boardwalk Empire, Family Guy, and ER, among others. Gossett Jr. is the founder of The Eracism Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating racism.

A triple-threat in the entertainment industry, Lena Waithe expertly taps into emerging cultural sensibilities with a sharp wit, speaking to a myriad of experiences from her unique perspective and challenging audiences to think outside of conventional norms. She has become a champion for underserved voices in the industry, creating writing and development opportunities for people of color as well as promoting diversity and representation on the screen through her production company, Hillman Grad. Currently, she serves as a writer and executive producer of two BET shows: the new series Twenties which is based off her own early years in LA and the second season of the Boomerang revival which she created alongside Halle Berry. Both shows are set to air in early 2020. Waithe has also received critical acclaim for creating Showtime’s The Chi, which will debut its third season this year. Waithe has proven herself a talent to be reckoned with, continuing to grow her body of work which includes: an overall deal to create and produce original series for Amazon Prime Video; Showtime’s How To Make Love to a Black Woman, which she will executive produce; the groundbreaking film, The 40-Year-Old Version, which is premiering at Sundance 2020; the horror anthology series Them for Amazon; and Sundance darling Dear White People, among others. Waithe first made headlines in front of the camera as Denise, in the critically acclaimed Netflix series Master of None. In a role that was originally intended for a straight, Caucasian female, Waithe has made Denise’s experience as a queer black woman uniquely her own and became the first woman of color to win an Emmy award in the category of “Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.” Waithe’s feature screenwriting debut, Queen & Slim, is also nominated for ABFF Honors “Movie of the Year” Award.

Speaking of “Movie of the Year,” you can still vote for your favorite film at ABFF’s site from now until Jan. 15 (you can also enter for a chance to win a VIP experience at the ceremony to meet famous people…and say hi to me!)

The 2020 ABFF Honors, hosted by Deon Cole, will take place in Los Angeles on Feb. 23.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.



Congratulations to Lena “What sexual harassment?” Waithe.