In a hybrid in-person slash virtual ceremony, Regina King kicked off the 93rd annual Academy Awards lamenting the enduring trauma of our nation’s racial reckoning.“ It has been quite a year and we are still smack dab in the middle of it,” the actress said in her introduction. In reference to last week’s verdict of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer found guilty of all charges in the death of George Floyd, King added, “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.” The If Beale Street Could Talk actress went on to say that “no amount of fame or fortune” changes the gut-wrenching fear embedded into Black motherhood, setting the stage for the conversation of racial justice and equality to remain in the spotlight throughout the ceremony.
While accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award, Tyler Perry spoke to the audience of the lessons he inherited from his mother who grew up in an era of fuelling racial tensions “My mother taught me to refuse hate. She taught me to refuse blanket judgment,” the 51-year-old storyteller said. He continued, “I would hope we would refuse hit hate. And I want to take this humanitarian award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle. Because that’s where healing, where conversation, where change happens. It happens in the middle. Anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate and blanket judgment, this one’s for you, too.”
As America witnessed an unprecedented summer of protests, Hollywood has shifted its gaze to the presence of police brutality as well. Two Distant Strangers, a Netflix short film, went home with the honour for Best Live-Action Short Film. The film features rapper Joey Bada$$ as a young Black man reliving his deadly encounter with law enforcement in a nauseating loop. In an emotional acceptance, Travon Free, the co-director alongside Martin Desmond Roe, decried the sobering statistics of Black deaths at the hands of the police. “Today the police will kill three people. And tomorrow the police will kill three people. And the day after that, the police will kill three people because on average the police in America every day kill three people, which amounts to about a thousand people a year. And those people happen to disproportionately be Black people.”