By Susan Hornik
Kevin Wilmott, David Rabinowitz, Spike Lee and Charles Wachtel pose backstage with the Oscar® for adapted screenplay during the live ABC Telecast of The 91st Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Sunday, February 24, 2019.
Photo: Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.
After lengthy criticism since the #oscarssowhite movement was birthed four years ago, the real winner of the 2019 Academy Awards was the celebration of diversity.
"This was an excellent awards season and year for diversity in film. All but one of the night's top acting awards went to black and brown people," enthused Jarrett Hill, VP, National Association of Black Journalists of Los Angeles.
"Regina King, Mahershala Ali and Rami Malek all were chosen for the year's highest honors. Black women, Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler, made strides being the first to win in costume and production design, respectively. Roma,
Green Book all received Oscars for being the best directed, written, and overall films of the year."
While Asian talent wasn't celebrated this year, it was at the very least refreshing to see more Asian actors represented in the room, Hill, a political and pop culture journalist, told Discover Hollywood.
"This is proof that when given the opportunity, black and brown people have superlative excellence to offer. We have to hope that this is the beginning of real change, not just a trend, that bends toward more diverse stories and inclusive perspectives being represented in our culture."
Hill is thrilled with the immense progress the #OscarsSoWhite movement has made.
"This was a depiction of the discussion that black and brown people have been having for years, turning public-facing. It was a renewal of the push for more representation in film, that has translated beyond the silver screen."
"We can only hope that the changes will be long-lasting and make for a new standard in across entertainment and media," emphasized Hill.
In the pressroom, director Spike Lee, who won an Oscar for Adapted Screenplay of BlacKkKlansman, gave kudos to activist April Reign, who birthed the #OscarsSoWhite movement.
"Without April Reign, #OscarsSoWhite, and the former president of the Academy Award of Motion Picture Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, I wouldn't be here tonight. They opened up the Academy to make the Academy look more like America. It's more diverse. So that's why three black women, if I'm counting correctly, won Oscars."
This year, the Academy invited Reign and her son to walk the red carpet and attend the awards event.
"Until we are no longer having these conversations about firsts in 2019, until we see everyone having the opportunity, whether it's race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, indigenous people in this country, until we all have an opportunity to see ourselves represented on screen, not just during awards season but all year long, I'll still continue to talk about #OscarsSoWhite," she told Variety.
-Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron took home three Oscars for Roma: best director, best cinematography and best foreign film
-Backstage, Regina King, who won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for If Beale Street Could Talk, acknowledged Hattie McDaniel, the first African American woman to win an Oscar for her memorable, supporting role in
Gone With the Wind.
"She didn't win just because black people voted for her. She won because she gave an amazing performance. And especially then, the Academy was not as reflective as it is now. We are still trying to get more reflective, still trying to get there. But I feel like I've had so many women that have paved the way, are paving the way...I walk in their light, and I also am creating my own light. And there are young women that will walk in the light that I'm continuing to shine and expand from those women before me."
King, along with Viola Davis and Halle Berry, are the only three African American actresses in Hollywood who have both an Oscar and an Emmy award.
-Green Book star, Mahershala Ali, won his second Academy Award for best supporting actor. He is the second black actor to win two Oscars, along with Denzel Washington.
In his acceptance speech onstage, Ali thanked pianist Dr. Don Shirley, who he played in the film. "His essence pushed me to my ends, which is a reflection of the person he was and the life that he lived."
-Costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, became the first black woman to take home an Oscar for Black Panther.
"It just means we've opened up the door," she told reporters. "Finally the door is wide open. And I've been struggling and, you know, digging deep, and mentoring, and doing whatever I could to raise others up. I hope through my example this means that there is hope, and other people can come on in and win an Oscar just like I did."
-Also, Black Panther's Hannah Beachler became the first black woman to take home the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Production Design. In her acceptance speech, she offered inspirational words to young women listening.
"I give this strength to all of those who come next, to keep going, to never give up. And when you think it's impossible, just remember to say this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman: I did my best, and my best is good enough."
She continued, "Don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't do this craft. You are worthy, and you are beautiful, and this is something for you.
-In addition, Peter Ramsey is now the first black co-director to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, for Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse. In the pressroom, he talked about debuting Miles, the first Afro-Latino Spider-Man. "He had a lot of people who really loved him as a character, believed in this story and knew how important it was going to be to, you know, black kids, Latino kids, kids who just want to be their best selves, no matter who they are."