Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog
It is revered as the greatest night in entertainment. Actors, directors, producers, writers and the like all convene for this extraordinary yearly event. It is the culmination of their seemingly endless dedication to their craft, and for many, the pinnacle of their careers. Some wait an entire lifetime to attend, while others are blessed to be nominated for their very first film. Dressed in their most coveted attire, strolling along the most infamous red carpet, these attendees collectively pay homage to artistic expression and creativity. Every year we are surprised, proud and sometimes left asking questions. And Sunday night’s 2010 Academy Awards were no exception.
Gracing the stage to accept her prize for Best Supporting Actress in the movie Precious, my good friend Mo’nique utilized the opportunity to give respect to the first African American actress to ever win an Oscar, Hattie McDaniel. Having known Mo’nique through the years, helping to perform her wedding ceremony in 2006 and watching her transition from a stand-up comedian to a now Academy Award-winning star, I couldn’t have been more proud than I was on Sunday. And knowing that she took that most sentimental moment to recognize those who have paved the way for her own success, made that Oscar moment all the more exceptional.
As the evening progressed, it would appear that Precious was indeed a major victor at this year’s award show. Writer Geoffrey Fletcher took home the Best Adapted Screenplay prize in an emotional speech in which he too stated: “This is for everybody who works on a dream every day, for precious boys and girls everywhere.” And although Precious star Gabourey Sidibe, who fed the homeless with us at National Action Network on Christmas Day, did not win an Oscar, the sheer fact that her impeccable talent would be acknowledged and nominated at the onset of her career speaks volumes in and of itself.
As someone who is cognizant of the role race plays in all facets of society – including entertainment – I am somewhat torn between being delighted and between what many of my callers on my radio show, ‘Keepin’ it Real’ have been expressing. Despite their elation for the recognition Precious received, many have been frustrated at the fact that African Americans seem to be awarded Oscars only when portraying stereotypical images of ourselves. They asked why Denzel Washington never received an Oscar until he played a crooked cop? Or why Halle Berry was never awarded until she was naked with a White man on the big screen? Or why a song called ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp’ brought hip-hop an Oscar victory in 2006? Or even why Sandra Bullock received her first Academy Award last night after portraying a White woman saving a Black boy.
Now I am not saying that I necessarily agree with the views of my callers, but as a fighter in the cause of justice and civil rights, I must raise their questions and concerns. When it comes to progress, we will all probably never be in unison, for there is always more work to be done. But as we celebrate the gains of Sunday evening, let us continue to pay deference to our past and effectively work towards more advancement. Let us make the next Academy Awards so remarkable that they’ll be no questions left to ask.