Since 1978 the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts has presented the Kennedy Center Honors, a recognition of a lifetime of contributions to American culture by an individual or groups. This year, the award goes to rapper LL Cool J, singers Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan, TV producer Normal Lear, and dancer Carmen de Lavallade.
Significantly, four out of the five honorees are people of color, and LL Cool J is the first rapper to ever be honored by the institution. Lear, of Eastern European heritage, has a history of championing black actors having produced both The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son, both with all black casts. If the Kennedy Center was hoping to send a message, it’s coming through loud and clear.
Despite his contributions to the black community, Lear said during his acceptance speech, "Under the law—equal opportunity, equal justice... the promises of this country. I want to call to attention in this room, with these people... deep in our hearts, we still have promises to deliver.”
Coincidentally or not, Donald Trump did not attend the Saturday event for the award, breaking with an 8-year precedent started by Barack Obama.
The event was filmed and will broadcast on CBS on December 26.