#OscarsSoBlack: Putting The Nominations In Context

The dark matter that has begun to flow through Hollywood is a beautiful thing to behold. But the Oscars have historically not been kind to Black folks. The concussive force of the entire Black Twitterverse’s #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and campaign reverberated like the big gun of a battleship, blasting a hole in the armor of so-called ambiguous racism that has long been employed in the major motion picture industry.

After years of purposeful exclusion, could it be that we’re witnessing an age in which the Academy Awards are going to be giving out Oscars to Black folks like when we sported big Cadillacs with “diamonds in the back”?

Wouldn’t that be cool a thing, despite it taking two years of #OscarsSoWhite slamming the Academy voters’ liberal sensibilities to get them to move.

Oh yeah, and nearly 100 years of racist history. Let me not forget that part. Viola Davis is making history simply for being Viola Davis. Yes, that is a thing! She is the first black woman to be nominated for an Oscar three times. This year she gets the nod for her supporting role in Fences.

A record six Black thespians have been nominated for an Oscar. Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris received nods for best supporting actor and best supporting actress for their roles in Moonlight, which received eight Oscar nominations.

Octavia Spencer was nominated for her role in Hidden Figures while Viola Davis received the nod for her work in Fences. Ruth Negga received a nod for best actress for her role in Loving while Denzel Washington received a nomination for playing Troy Maxson in Fences. Hidden Figures was nominated in the best picture category along with Fences. Pharrell Williams earned a nomination for best picture for producing Hidden Figures.

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins was the lone brother nominated for best director, but there is much blackness representing in the best documentary category. I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck and produced by Remi Grellety and Hebert Peck, received a nomination for Documentary (Feature), is based on the unfinished work of James Baldwin from 1979, O.J.: Made in America, directed by, Ezra Edelman, was nominated for best documentary and Ava DuVernay’s groundbreaking documentary 13TH took its rightful place amid its peers with a nom of its own.

The 89th Annual Academy Awards is slated to air February 27th on ABC. Whether the record number of diverse faces signifies a chocolate reign in motion pictures, or just a brief respite from history, it’s anyone’s guess. But it is great to see this tiny corner of cinema history pleasingly unfold in my lifetime and before my eyes.  

The Oscars are indeed so black, but a million nominations don’t take all that history back.  Congratulations to each of the nominees, rest in peace to Hattie McDaniel, rest in peace Dorothy Dandridge, and special shoutout to Diahann Carroll.

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