Photo: Consequence of Sound
I’ll be the first to admit that Black History Month has been all over the place in the world of Hollywood. From Jussie Smollett allegedly faking his racist and homophobic attack and R.Kelly charged with ten counts of sexual abuse, the month that’s supposed to celebrate Black people hasn’t necessarily been one of excellence. However, on Sunday night at the 91st Academy Awards, Black people in film and entertainment had their names in the headlines for a good reason.
Spike Lee, film director and a Morehouse College man (whoop) won his first Oscar for BlacKkKlansman for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film highlights Ron Stallworth played by John David Washington as the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department and exposed the Ku Klux Klan.
In his 30-year film career creating classics such as She’s Gotta Have It, Do The Right Thing, School Daze, and many more, this is the first time Lee graced the Oscar stage to accept an award for his work. What made this moment even more special was his Morehouse brother, and legendary actor Samuel L. Jackson presented him the award.
Lee ran on stage into Jackson’s arms and gave a powerful speech discussing the history of Black History Month, thanking his loved ones, and addressing the 2020 presidential election.
Check it out below:
Lee was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director for BlacKkKlansman. The movie lost Best Picture to Green Book, which was directed by Peter Farrelly about a world-class African-American pianist, Dr. Don Shirley who in need of a driver and protection recruits Tony Lip, an Italian-American man from the Bronx. The two men form a bond while fighting against racism during an era of segregation.
In the press room, backstage, Lee gave his thoughts on his response losing against Green Book for Best Picture.
“Oh wait a minute; what reaction did you see? What did I do?” Lee said. “No, I thought I was courtside at the [Madison Square] Garden. The ref made a bad call.”
Lee also gave his thoughts on Do The Right Thing losing Best Original Screenplay to Driving Miss Daisy at the 1990 Oscars. “I’m snake bit. Every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose – but they changed the seating arrangement!”
A long time coming, Lee acknowledged his excitement for being nominated in the Best Picture category.
“Here’s the thing: Without April Reign, #OscarsSoWhite and the former President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I wouldn’t be here tonight,” Lee said. “The Academy’s more diverse. That wouldn’t have happened without Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Facts.”
During the press conference, Lee also expressed why he decided to address politics in his acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay. “I said to myself, ‘Self, your black ass won’t be up here again,’ ” Lee explained.
This is a monumental moment for Lee, and he believes that whether he had won or not, that BlacKkKlansman will tell the right side of history for years to come.
“I do know that the coda of this film, where we saw homegrown, red-white-and-blue terrorism…Heather Heyer, her murder was an American terrorist act, when the President of the United States did not refute, did not denounce the Klan, the alt-right and Neo-Nazis,” he said.
“This film, whether we won Best Picture or not, will stand the test of time for being on the right side of history,” Lee added.
Lee wasn’t the only big win of the night. Regina King took home Best Supporting Actress for playing Sharon Rivers in the film If Beale Street Could Talk. Taking the stage in a white gown, this was the first Oscar and nomination for King as she cried tears of happiness for her outstanding accomplishment.
Then, Ruth E. Carter became the first Black woman to win Best Costume Design for Black Panther. Carter worked with Lee for his 1988 film School Daze and gave him credit in her speech along with the director Ryan Coogler and her mom.
Last, but not least, Hannah Beachler became the first Black woman to win Best Production Design for Black Panther. The set decorator for Black Panther, Jay Hart also joined Beachler on stage.
Cheers to Black History Month!