Berry Gordy, Billy Dee Williams Reunite in Iconic Moment at Celebration of Black Cinema

Billy Dee Williams and Berry Gordy backstage at the 2022 Critics Choice Celebration of Black Cinema & TV. (Credit: Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

Berry Gordy laughed, danced and shared the spotlight with Billy Dee Williams Monday night at the Critics Choice Association’s Celebration of Black Cinema & Television in Los Angeles.

It was a moment only two icons could deliver — and the crowd rose to its feet in appreciation.

After being introduced by entertainment executive and former Motown Studios president, Suzanne de Passe, Gordy and Williams embraced in front of the audience of filmmakers, actors, journalists, publicists and executives at the Fairmont Century Plaza.

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Williams, who portrayed Gordy in the 1992 miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream, presented the retired record executive with the Icon Award for his contributions to music, film and popular culture.

“It was an honor and a privilege to be able to work with Berry Gordy and star in… Motown Production films Lady Sings the Blues; Mahogany; Scott Joplin; and The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings,” said Williams, who made a surprise appearance at the event. “You are so deep in my soul. I don’t mean to be corny over here, but it was the experience of a lifetime.”

Gordy, 93, held up his award, danced in excitement and added, “I am so happy tonight. I have no idea what I’m even talking about, but Billy Dee Williams is such a surprise to me and Suzanne, who I’d like to say kind of made me a little bit,” said Gordy, prompting de Passe to tell him they “made each other.”

De Passe and Gordy were longtime collaborators, with de Passe being credited for discovering Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, and many other successful recording artists before signing them to Motown Records when she oversaw the company’s records division for Gordy. Among Gordy’s producing credits are Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Mahogany (1975), The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976), Scott Joplin (1977), The Wiz (1978),  and The Last Dragon (1985).

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever star Angela Bassett was also honored with the Career Achievement Award.

During her acceptance speech, Basset thanked the women she’s portrayed on screen, including Tina Turner, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, and the fictional Black Panther character, Queen Ramonda.

“My representation of you on screen put me on a path that a little Black girl, a high school student living in the Jordan Park Housing Project in St. Petersburg, Florida, could have only dreamed of,” she said. “Because of you, my dreams were not only fulfilled, but your stories have been immortalized on film for future generations to discover, and to fall in love with, and to enjoy, and be inspired by your life.”

Other honorees included Michael B. Jordan, who picked up the Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award, and Entergalactic creator Scott  “Kid Cudi” Mescudi. The musician talked about overcoming drug addiction to achieve his dreams, while accepting an award for his animated Netflix television special.

Comedian Bill Bellamy hosted the Celebration of Black Cinema & Television and joked about wearing a gold suit to the event.

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Below is the list of the night’s honorees at the Critics Choice Association’s Celebration of Black Cinema & Television.

-Musician/actor Scott  “Kid Cudi'” Mescudi received the Groundbreaker
Award, recognizing his role as Jabari in Netflix’s Entergalactic, which
he also created.

-Nicco Annan received the Actor Award for Television for his
work on STARZ series P-Valley.

– Elegance Bratton, a writer and director, received the Social Justice
Award for his work on the film The Inspection

Abbott Elementary creator Quinta Brunson received the Actress
Award for Television for her work on the ABC series.

-Danielle Deadwyler was awarded the Actress Award for Film for her
work on the drama Till.

-Ayo Edebiri received the Rising Star Award for the FX series The Bear.

-Brian Tyree Henry received the Supporting Actor Award for his
work on the film Causeway.

-Actor Quincy Isaiah picked up the Rising Star Award for his work
on the series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.

-Jonathan Majors received the Actor Award for Film for his work
in the movie Devotion.

-Gina Prince-Bythewood received the Director Award for Film for The Woman King.

-Writer/director Nikyatu Jusu received the Breakthrough Film
Award for Nanny

-The cast of ABC sitcom, The Wonder Years received the Ensemble Award. The actors on the series include Elisha “EJ” Williams, Dulé Hill, Saycon Sengbloh, Laura Kariuki, Julian Lerner, Amari O’Neil and Milan Ray.