"This is their problem too," she said of friends of differing races, genders and religions. "Imagine what we could do together."
Rihanna was touched an honored to be the recipient President's Award at the 51st NAACP Image Awards, but made sure to emphasize that "tonight really isn't about me."
The musician and fashion maven explained that "the purpose is bigger than me," adding that her "part is a very small part of the work that's being done in this world -- and the work that's yet to be done."
Since 1987 (with a few exceptions), the NAACP has presented the President's Award to recognize those individuals who have offered distinguished public service and philanthropy. Past recipients include Ella Fitzgerald, Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Williams sisters, Kerry Washington, Muhammad Ali, and back-to-back winner Spike Lee.
"If there's anything I've learned, it's that we can only fix this world together. We can't do it divided. I cannot emphasize that enough. We cannot let the de-sensitivity seep in," Rihanna said, dismissing "the, 'If it's your problem, it's not mine,'" 'It's a woman's problem.' 'It's a black people problem.' 'It's a poor people problem.'
She went on to say that it's important that people tell their friends from across races, genders and religions to "pull up" for marches and protests and social media posts about social justice.
"They like you? Well, then, this is their problem too," she said.
"We have been denied opportunities since the beginning of time, and still we prevail," she said. "Imagine what we could do together."
Rihanna was honored for her extensive philanthropic work, including raising funds for disaster relief around the world and the opening of the Clara Lionel Foundation in honor of her grandparents, which supports "education, health and emergency response programs around the world."
"From her business achievements through Fenty, to her tremendous record as an activist and philanthropist, Rihanna epitomizes the type of character, grace, and devotion to justice that we seek to highlight in our President's Award," said NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson in a statement last month.