You may remember that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Academy Awards) was recently accused of being extremely white. In a recent year no Black person walked away with an “Oscar,” that coveted statuette given to winners in various acting categories.
This year, things changed somewhat. An African American film, “Moonlight,” won Best Picture, and the great Viola Davis won Best Female Supporting Actor for her role in “Fences” and Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Moonlight.” The 2017 Academy Awards, therefore, serves as a moment of triumph for some African Americans, but it did not go off without a hitch.
For whatever reason, which is still under investigation at press time, Warren Beatty and his co-presenter, Faye Dunaway, read the wrong winner of the Best Picture award: they mistakenly said that “La La Land” won for Best Picture! For those who watched the presentation, it was apparent that Beatty seemed somewhat confused, and handed the document to Faye Dunaway to read. The “La La” Land crew was ecstatic as they stormed the stage, hugging and mugging. But then, the unexpected happened: there was the announcement that a mistake had been made, that “Moonlight” was the actual winner.
A lot of African Americans are crying “conspiracy” or foul, but the truth of the matter is that the mistake was discovered and the “Moonlight” cast and crew got their award. A similar situation happened when Steve Harvey made a mistake in announcing the wrong name in the recent Miss Universe. Mix-ups like this can be devastating for those who are involved in competitive events…after all, what can be more disconcerting than to be publicly embarrassed in this manner, i.e., to accept an award only to have it snatched away from you. What a letdown.
The important thing to note about the Oscar debacle, however, is the show of power that Black people demonstrated after being snubbed last year. The chances are, that had there not been a major outcry coming from all over the Black community about the dearth of Black faces in the awards arena, there would not have been the significant awards garnered this year.
It must be said, however, that people are not perfectly satisfied, because Denzel Washington lost out to Casey Affleck as Best Actor. Affleck won for his role in “Manchester by the Sea.” Affleck was gracious during his acceptance speech in acknowledging that he learned a lot about acting from Denzel Washington although they had never met. There is no doubt that Denzel put in a masterful performance in August Wilson’s “Fences.” Denzel, along with a lot of others, was disappointed that he did not win the Best Actor award.
The important thing to remember when considering the Academy Awards is that it can be argued that the powers that be may have succumbed to pressure coming from Black people regarding their exclusion. This is key, and should be seen as a teachable moment. The power of unity had an impact on a major institution.
Think on this. Although this may be the case, it is more important to question why the Black community does not wield this collective power on a more consistent basis, dealing with issues that are more important to the community.
Black people seek to be honored by white institutions and will sometimes not equally value honors coming from Black institutions. In other words, there is still a tendency to need validation from others as opposed to valuing those things coming from the Black community.
Ultimately, we are entering a new age when we will have to really value Black culture and support it to the same degree that the community supports white culture. In order for this to occur, Black people will have to turn within and recognize the value that Black culture has played in world development.
Let’s face it, if we wait for others to validate us, we may never rise to the great potential that lies within. Keep this in mind next year when the Academy Awards rolls around again. Be prepared to validate yourself and to not be disappointed if others are given greater accolades. A luta continua.