I never cared for The Oscars. To me it has always been an institution by and for the upper echelon of the movie industry. A boys club that caters to their own. Lately there has been a lot of media coverage about the lack of black nominees this year. It comes as no surprise to myself, there weren’t enough slave, pimp, thug and prostitute roles to be included in the lead actor division. I take that back, in 2006 Forest Whitaker won for his portrayal of ruthless African dictator Idi Amin and Jamie Foxx for his part as Ray Charles in 2004. So madmen and entertainers acting as entertainers can win too. But between 1958 and 2016, there has only been 15 African American winners in either a lead or supporting role. That includes men and women.
But this year, there is not one black actor or actress nominated in ANY acting category, lead or supporting. That’s a bit hard to believe that not one African American played in a role that would meet the standard of at least being nominated. This has certainly rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. So much so, that Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee chose to boycott this year’s event.
But as always, there are haters amongst everybody. Original Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert, has come out from under her rock to disparage the Pinkett-Smith led boycott. I feel where she is coming from as far as the other issues but she is in no position to tell others what cause they should fight for. She’s still bitter from being fired from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Plain and simple.
I know, some of you are like, “what in thee hell does this have to do with hip hop”. Well, two things. One of the roles that should have been nominated was played by former rapper, Will Smith. And secondly, this same guy along with DJ Jazzy Jeff led a similar boycott against The Grammys in 1989.
Boycotting and peaceful demonstration is nothing new to Willy from Philly. Not at all, matter of fact, he along with everyone pictured above is the reason Hip Hop is respected at The Grammys now. The difference is, he and Jazzy Jeff actually won the very first Grammy for best Hip Hop Performance in 1989. The reason for the protest? The very first hip hop award wasn’t allowed to be aired on television. Will Smith was asked why the reason for the protest and responded accordingly.
“What I really wanted to accomplish is, next year, or two years from now, the rappers would be able to have what I didn’t have.”
And accomplish, they did. The following year, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince performed at The Grammys. Unfortunately, the song they performed was ‘I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson”. I know you don’t remember it neither. But the presedence was set. Acknowledging us as real, viable, legit entertainers that deserve to share the stage with your Tony Bennets, Barbra Streisands, REMs and U2s.
A change was brought upon the establishment. The Grammys took notice that these new hip hop figures weren’t just rhyming for the sake of riddling. So thanks to DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, we got to see Laurun Hill perform ‘To Zion’ in 1999 and Outkast closing the show in 2004.
So the next giant to slay is The Oscars. This will be a tougher code to crack, but it is worth fighting for. For the legacies of Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Dorothy Dandridge, Diahann Carroll, Louis Gossett Jr. and Hattie McDaniel to continue, a fight must be waged for equality. Some may say, “who cares, that’s their thing”, but remember, basketball used to be their “thing” too. It is solely our responsibility to fight systematic racism and discrimination on all fronts. Not just for police brutality or the drug laws, but for entertainment and the arts as well. We have a voice, and our thoughts and opinions matter just like anyone else’s. I tip my hat to Will and Jada and Spike Lee for standing or in this case sitting, for what they believe in. A change gon’ come.