One year after the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite took over social media, and a heavyweight list of Hollywood A-listers chimed in on the lack of diversity at the Academy Awards, the Academy responded by nominating a record six Black actors for this year’s awards. Denzel Washington received a nod for best actor in his awesome work in Fences, while his co-star Viola Davis received a best supporting actress nod for her role in the film. Octavia Spencer was nominated for her work in the film Hidden Figures, while Mahershala Ali was nominated for Moonlight.
The nominations didn’t stop for the work in front of the camera. There were nominations behind the camera also. As writer-director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins found himself the fourth black best director nominee to be recognized in the Academy’s history. The documentary feature category was made up almost entirely of people of color. Ava DuVernay (13th), Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro), Ezra Edelman (O.J.: Made in America), and Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated) all made the cut. What makes these nominations more important is the fact that the nominees were selected for roles that don’t portray Black people in a grossly negative light (a la Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball, and Denzel Washington in Training Day.)
So did the #OscarsSoWhite controversy help to add some color to the Academy’s lenses? One can’t say for certain. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to note the alarming change from the nominees from just one year ago. For all my social media warriors, keep up the fight! #staywoke