LOS ANGELES -- The NAACP chose Cedric the Entertainer to host its upcoming Image Awards show despite his jokes in the film "Barbershop" that angered some black leaders.
His character made mocking remarks in the film about civil rights icons the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, sparking complaints upon its release in September from the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the uproar was "overblown." He noted that other characters in the film shouted down the remarks that Cedric's character made.
Mfume said Thursday he hoped choosing the comedian as host would help put the controversy to rest.
"Some people, and it's their right, will object and say it's not the right choice, but thank God this is America, where people can do that," he said. "We're not a monolithic community, African-Americans - never have been and never will be."
"Barbershop," about friendships forged at a hair salon in a black neighborhood of Chicago, has five Image Award nominations, including best picture and best supporting actor for Cedric.
The film, now available on DVD and home video, was a box-office hit that collected more than $75 million domestically.
Cedric has had four consecutive Image Awards - presented by the NAACP to people of color for their work in literature, television, film and music - for comedic supporting TV actor for "The Steve Harvey Show." He also stars in his own Fox variety show, "Cedric the Entertainer Presents."
Show-business professionals and NAACP officials from across the country choose the Image Award winners. The 34th annual ceremony is set for March 8 at the Universal Amphitheatre, and Fox will broadcast a tape of the program on March 13.
On the Net:
NAACP Image Awards Web site: http://www.naacpimageawards.org/