From #OscarsSoWhite to a New Black Renaissance on Screen: How last year’s Oscar blackout led to brilliance in film in Television

The Academy Awards or “Oscars” is the seminal awards ceremony marking the brightest and best movies of the year, hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The top categories are Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress,

April Reign started the call to bring attention to the fact that no African Americans were nominated for any of the top Oscars in either 2015 or 2016. Besides The Weeknd’s nomination for “Earned It” off the soundtrack for ”Fifty Shades of Grey,” there weren’t any notable nominations at last year’s Oscars.

But sometimes it is darkest just before dawn. A few years ago, there were literally no black leading actors on primetime network television. In comes Shonda Rhimes and Scandal to save the day. Scandal, along with How to Get Away with Murder and Blackish, led to the plethora of African American actors and actresses who are earning awards and getting great ratings. The #Oscars so white years may have forced African American actors, filmmakers, artists and rappers deep into the abyss where they came out with the best and most beautifully written television shows and movies in years. I had this thought when I was watching Queen Sugar, Ava Duveray’s show on the OWN network. The show, based on one family who own a Sugar Plantation, is one of the most beautifully artistic visual works I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of Daughters of the Dust or Eve’s Bayou, and I am all here for it- every week.

The movies Hidden Figures and Fences were both released on Christmas 2016 to critical acclaim. Not enough can be said about the portrayal of the historical African American figures in both movies. I was moved to tears in both movies for different reasons. At the end of Hidden Figures I held my head a little higher knowing I was part of the history of putting John Glenn in space. After seeing Fences I was brought face-to-face with my own families secrets and issues and promised myself that I would do everything I could to make our wrongs right. People of all color and nationalities rallied behind Hidden Figures and made it a box-office success.

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This year’s African American nominees include:

Best Picture

Moonlight

Fences

Hidden Figures

 

Best Actor

Denzel Washington (Fences)

 

Best Actress

Ruth Negga (Loving)

 

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis (Fences)

Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

 

Documentary Feature

Ava DuVernay (13th)

Raoul Peck (I am Not Your Negro)

Ezra Edelman (OJ: Made in America)

Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated)

The Oscars air 2/26/2017 at 7pm Eastern on ABC. We will all be tuned in to see just how black this year’s Oscars will be. But one thing is certain- our televisions, our movie theaters, and our hearts will not be devoid of the depth of black experiences ever again.

 

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