Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have just been honoured with the prestigious President’s Award at the 53rd NAACP Image Awards.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were bestowed with the honour Saturday during the live televised portion of the event. The President’s Award aims to recognize those who have demonstrated special achievement and distinguished public service. Some of the past recipients include Muhammad Ali, Rev. Jesse Jackson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, JAY-Z, LeBron James, Rihanna, Lauryn Hill and renowned journalist Soledad O’Brien, among others.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex appeared live on stage to accept the prestigious award. The Duchess, who wore a one-shoulder blue and black gown began the speech thanking the organization and those to awarded them with the honour.

“It’s inspiring to think about the legacy surrounding the Image Awards which began shortly after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed into law,” the Duchess said. “And today, we can continue that legacy by reestablishing federal voting protections in our country and fulfilling the work of civil rights giants like the late John Lewis. We are so deeply humbled to be here in the company of so many illustrious awardees.”

The Duke, who held the award began his speech by acknowledging the people of Ukraine, “who urgently need our continued support as a global community.”

“I also owe the immense gratitude tonight,” the Duke continued, “Both for this award and to this community both for welcoming me so warmly. I think it’s safe to say that I come from a very different background than my incredible wife, yet our lives were brought together for a reason. We share a commitment to a life of service, a responsibility to confront injustice and a belief that the most often overlooked are the most important to listen to.”

The Duchess added, “And I couldn’t be prouder that we are doing this work together.”

Meghan even brought mom Doria Ragland along for the evening. And Anthony Anderson had the same idea as his mom was in attendance as well.

Photo: Earl Gibson III/ NAACP
Photo: Earl Gibson III/ NAACP

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The royals, who founded the Archewell Foundation also went on to speak about how relocating to California, and witnessing the murder of George Floyd inspired them to partner with the NAACP, to create the Arwell Digital Civil Rights Award, which will be given annually to leaders who are making change at the intersection of social justice and technology.

This year’s recipient was Dr. Safiya Noble. Who was honoured by the pair during their speech.

“This is the era of the digital justice movement,” Markle added. “We are proud to partner with NAACP and each of you to translate the vital efforts of those who came before us and face modern challenges presented in front of us. Thank you so much for joining us in this work. Thank you again for this incredible honour, truly.”

Harry and Meghan founded the Archewell Foundation in 2020 after relocating to the United States. The foundation’s core purpose is “to uplift and unite communities — local and global, online and offline — one act of compassion at a time.”

“We’re thrilled to present this award to Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who together have heeded the call to social justice and have joined the struggle for equity both in the US and around the world,” said Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Not only do they continue to lead by example, the Duke and Duchess have also decided to inspire the next generation of activists through the NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award, ensuring the support and recognition of generations of civil rights leaders to come.”

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“It’s a true honour to be recognized by President Derrick Johnson and the NAACP, whose efforts to propel racial justice and civil rights are as vital today as they were nearly 115 years ago,” said Prince Harry and Meghan in a statement. “We’re proud to support the NAACP’s work and to also partner with the organization on the newly created annual NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award.”

Dr. Safiya Noble is the inaugural recipient of the NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award. The 2021 McArthur Fellow is currently a professor of gender studies and African American studies at UCLA.

The NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award aims to “recognize leaders creating transformational change — at the intersection of social justice and technology — to advance civil and human rights.” The award comes with a $100,000 unrestricted stipend “to be used to advance new work, expand leadership and expertise, or continue to make an impact in the field.”

The week-long event honours people of colour across television, music, literature and film. It began with virtual award ceremonies. Saturday’s ceremony airs live at 8 p.m. ET on BET.

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