“The only thing that separates black women from anyone else is opportunity.” – Viola Davis
Where My People At?
On Thursday, January 14th the 2016 Academy Award nominations were announced for this year’s ceremony. I missed the announcements so I went online to look, after a friend texted me very excited about this year’s nominees. The list read like so many Broadway seasons I had looked at while beginning my Broadway Must-See List and then subsequently getting discouraged at how there was no one in the list that looked like me or so many of my friends. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am all about, “May the best actor win.” But, when there were so many acclaimed performances by people of all colors, why have none of the people who look like me been nominated? Last year when David Oyelowo was not nominated for playing Martin Luther King Jr., I was angry and in shock. I had seen the other performances that were nominated. He was as good, if not better than some of the other men nominated. And it does something to the psyche when you are constantly reminded that you and your people are invisible. There has been debate within the black community about feeling that those of us who are complaining about no nominations for the Oscars, are waiting for white folks to validate us. It’s not about being validated. It’s about unity. Blacks have always created their own opportunities when others told us, “No!” We have our own awards, our own production companies and create content specifically geared towards blacks. The issue is that when the doors continue to be closed to us and we have to make our own content and our own awards shows there is clearly still segregation. Although the laws have been changed for many years, this is where “subtle racism” rears its ugly head. And although no one will tell us we aren’t welcome straight out, we see the truth.
If you don’t get the pat on the back that says, ‘Yes its okay to hire these women…’See now there will be more parts, more dramas, because Viola won the Emmy award. So they’ll hire more black women.” – Whoopi Goldberg (BET article September 2015)
Good Content is Hard to Find
“I write shows stacked with Black and Puerto-Rican dudes. I write slow because I build them like cathedrals” – Lin-Manuel Miranda
The main complaint is that there are still not enough opportunities for minorities. When we look at the argument for those who were not nominated this year that we feel “should” have been, they are all black men. Where are the Asian men? The Asian or Hispanic women? Where are the parts for them so that we can say, “Why didn’t they get nominated?” The problem goes farther back than at the awards level. The problem is not even content. The major issue is how we are seen. Minorities would have more opportunities if we were just seen as people. Color-blind casting is really just the audiences finally getting to a point where we can see a black man with a white woman and see it be just as normal and beautiful as if it where two white people or two black people. The problem is fundamentally how we see each other and what we find beautiful. When we truly begin to see each other the way we say we do, that is when things will change. So, it’s up to us, the artists to change how we think and see our peers. It’s up to us to begin changing things within our realm of influence. It’s up to us to become the gatekeepers who make the decisions to make casting changes and give people of all races the opportunity to be the best writers, directors, producers and actors that they can possibly be. Then and only then will we see a change at the awards level. Creating contents that lasts through generations and brings awareness and consciousness to artistic work where light has not been shed is art that transcends just mere storytelling. Let’s take the steps to change things at the fundamental levels. We outnumber those who are the gatekeepers now, so let’s throw our weight around and make our voices be heard. Now is the time.
“So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.” – Viola Davis’ Emmy speech
To The Revolution!