The Oscars has been at a turning point for a while now and facing an existential conundrum amid increasing calls for the Hollywood celebration of cinema to diversity all aspects of its operation, including and especially recognizing Black and brown talent in front of the camera.
But the Academy’s voters did the organization no favor Sunday night during the 93rd Academy Awards when it failed to award Chadwick Boseman with its top Best Actor prize for his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — the late actor’s final role. Boseman, who died last summer following an unpublicized battle with colon cancer, became the first Black actor to be posthumously nominated for an Academy Award and was heavily favored to win.
Boseman previously won a slew of other best actor awards for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” including a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actor’s Guild Award and a Critics Choice Award.
To his credit, Hopkins — who later said he was surprised to learn he won — filmed an acceptance speech crediting Boseman.
But that moment of disappointment for Boseman’s fans was sort of tempered with other instances during the awards ceremony that recognized the Black experience, both in Hollywood as well as in America at large.
There were five moments, in particular, that stood out among those Blackest moments. They included, although certainly were not limited to, the acceptance speeches for Tyler Perry winning the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and Daniel Kaluuya winning Best Actor in a Supporting Role for playing Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah;” Regina King‘s remarks opening up the Academy Awards; Pixar’s big win; and Glenn Close being snubbed by the Oscars for a record number of times, sort of.
Again, what follows is far from a definitive list of all of the Blackest moments at an annual awards ceremony that typically doesn’t feature such moments. However, these were still some of the most talked-about moments during the 2021 Academy Awards that involved Black people and/or being unapologetically Black.
Not to mention, actor Lil Rel Howery officially proclaimed during the telecast, “This is the Blackest Oscars of all time, y’all!”
1. Tyler Perry wins the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Tyler Perry won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his work helping the needy during the pandemic and took the opportunity to speak on the topic of hate that continues to divide humanity, especially along racial lines.
“My mother taught me to refuse hate. She taught me to refuse blanket judgment, and in this time, and with all of the Internet and social media and algorithms and everything that wants us to think a certain way, the 24-hour news cycle, it is my hope that all of us, we teach our kids and I want to remember, just refuse hate,” Perry said while accepting his award. “Don’t hate anybody. I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican or because they are Black or white or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian.”
Read Perry’s full speech here.
Perry was introduced by actress Viola Davis, who also paid tribute to her “philanthropist” friend:
“Tyler knows what it is to be hungry, to be without a home, to feel unsafe and uncertain. So when he buys groceries for 1,000 of his neighbors, supports a women’s shelter, or quietly pays tuition for a hard-working student, Tyler is coming from a place of shared experience.”
2. Daniel Kaluuya shouts out the Black Panthers after winning Best Actor in a Supporting Role for ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’
Chadwick Boseman may have been denied a posthumous Oscar, but Daniel Kaluuya winning the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award for his portrayal of Black Panthers legend Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah” was definitely consolation to some.
Kaluuya made it a point during his acceptance speech to address the life of the man he portrayed as well as the Black Panthers Party as a whole.
“To Chairman Fred Hampton, what a man. How blessed we are that we lived in a lifetime where he existed,” Kaluuya said Sunday night. “He was on this Earth for 21 years and he found a way to feed kids breakfast, educate kids, get free medical care against all odds.”
He added of the Black Panthers later: “They showed me how to love myself. With that love, they overflowed into the Black community and into other communities. They showed us the power of unity.”
3. Regina King mentions Derek Chauvin verdict
Hollywood royalty Regina King brought up the topics of social justice and police brutality when she mentioned the Derek Chauvin murder trial verdict in her remarks as she helped open up the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night.
“We are mourning the loss of so many, and I have to be honest, if things had gone differently this past week in Minneapolis, I might have traded in my heels for marching boots,” King said.
She added later: “Now, I know that a lot of you people at home want to reach for your remote when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you. But as a mother of a black son, I know the fear that so many live with and no amount of fame or fortune changes that.”
4. ‘Soul’ wins best animated feature
This one isn’t truly “a Black thing,” but the movie “Soul” — Pixar’s first so-called Black movie — won an Academy Award for the best animated feature. “Soul” is Pixar’s first movie to have a Black person as its main star and featured Jamie Foxx starring as a middle school music teacher in life and death.
5. Glenn Close does “Da Butt”
On a lighter note, legendary actress Glenn Close celebrated her historic streak of losing eight Academy Award nominations by dancing to an iconic song made famous in part by its inclusion in a Spike Lee movie.
Yes, that’s right, Glenn Close did “Da Butt,” as first seen in “School Daze” during the pajama jammy jam scene.
The moment happened during an interlude manned by resident Oscars DJ Questlove, who asked Close to guess the name of the song he was playing. Not only did she guess it, but she also broke out into a purportedly spontaneous rendition of the eponymous dance — that is, if you believe this wasn’t a scripted moment of reality TV.
“Wait a second. Wait a second. That’s Da Butt,” Close said. “It was a classic song by the great Washington, D.C. go-go band E.U. Shoutouts to Sugar Bear and the Backyard Band and the whole DMV.”