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Cinema and Television Arts Faculty Member Wins Big at NAACP Image Awards

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Anthony Sparks, assistant professor of cinema and television arts, is among the “Queen Sugar” team members that won Outstanding Drama Series at the Feb. 11 NAACP Image Awards.

The screenwriter and producer received two additional nominations — for Outstanding Writing on a Dramatic Series (“Queen Sugar” episode titled “By Any Chance”), and for Outstanding Instructional Literary Work — for “Running the Long Race in Gifted Education: Narratives and Interviews From Culturally Diverse Gifted Adults,” which he coauthored with Joy M. Scott-Carrol.

“It’s pretty incredible to be recognized with a drama series win for ‘Queen Sugar’ and in our very first season. That’s a tough feat to pull off,” said Sparks, a supervising producer and a writer on the Oprah Winfrey Network television series that premiered in September. “The competition was very tough (other nominees included “This is Us” and “Empire”) and I take it as an endorsement that a series like ours, that wears its humanity and its intent on its sleeve, is connecting with audiences and critics alike.

“Storytelling is crucial to how we understand ourselves and each other. In an ever-diversifying world, I believe audiences are hungry for characters and stories that they recognize as complex, multi-layered and fully human,” Sparks added.

As an instructor to future screenwriters, Sparks said the award reignites his passion for teaching.

“Being recognized in this way encourages me to keep encouraging my students to take on the challenge of developing an educated point of view about the world and to utilize that viewpoint in their creative and scholarly work,” he said. “That has always been my approach — to teach strivers and the marginalized that their voice counts.”

The show’s director and executive producer, Ava DuVernay, won in the category of Outstanding Writing on a Dramatic Series (the same category Sparks was nominated in) for her “Queen Sugar” episode “First Things First.”

This is the fifth television show for Sparks, who joined the Titan faculty in fall 2015. His 20-year career as an entertainer includes a long run as a member of the Broadway cast of “STOMP” in New York and on tour, and he has written for television shows including NBC’s “The Blacklist” and ABC’s “Lincoln Heights.”