The ongoing conversation about Black Americans in Hollywood ties a new knot: currently, forasmuch as we are proud and excited for our recent successes in Black film productions and critical acclaim, it is talent from the entire African diaspora that we now celebrate and include. It is beyond about time…yes, we are a global miracle. Yet this new level of appreciation to our people situates groundbreaking, iconic Black American people behind once more.
Historically, Black Americans were demeaned to wait, with baited breath, for decades in order to glimpse widespread, popular acceptance of our talents in film, television, theater, etc…One movie, one play, one project, one star (maybe two or three) every few or ten years might catch on to the public in ways that A Raisin in the Sun, The Color Purple, Denzel Washington and Boyz in the Hood did. That time is over. Yes. It truly is. I feel a timely and comforting shift nowadays, whereby the increased number of projects catering to Black audiences with the increased number of multiracial casts all but guarantees us a fresh sprinkling of talents, recognition, awards, sales and respect every few years–if not every year. But I do not want to lose sight of the Black American women who have been here working on our behalf in the meantime it has taken all of us to arrive to this point. In “mainstream” talent constellations, it is easy to guarantee many more women the recognition and acclaim and work they deserve; they are more often recognized, acclaimed and working. It is harder to appreciate the gems in Black American culture how we should, because we do not share that benefit and frequency of work.
If I were President of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, or whatever it is formally called, I would designate a special day and Oscar for the following women who have been visible to all of America for decades, enriched our lives, portrayed brave new worlds and given me the cinematic models to dream upon in my own little humble life as well as to imagine characters for…
Viola Davis- I saw her in Antoine Fisher, where her only line was one tear, and I knew…
Vivica Fox- I remember her talking about how she worked for 15 years before she got a role opposite Will Smith in Independence Day. #respect
Sanaa Lathan-She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, true thespian, I’d love to see her and Don Cheadle together onstage.
Thandie Newton, British, but how you can you not include the lady who played Beloved?
Regina King-Any woman who can put Will Smith and Tom Cruise in their place is the real deal.
Salli Richardson-Whitfield: Why do we forget her so often? She has been the backbone in so many great Black films for so many leading men.
Queen Latifah- Does anyone work harder to do more?
Oprah Winfrey- I was so so proud of her in The Butler. This lady can truly act.
Phylicia Rashad- Not too many television stars can shake that tv character off their backs to make audiences believe they are someone new, but this woman is effortless at doing just that. I wanna be like her when I grow up…
Nicole Ari-Parker: I saw her opposite Hill Harper in a movie whose name I can’t remember, but have seen all of her work ever since. She is like Black American’s Gwyneth Paltrow– unapologetically fly, speaks her mind, not afraid to be silly. And she is absolutely one of the best actresses in Hollywood.
Loretta Devine- She is the Cicely Tyson of our generation.
Nia Long- I won’t even start because it’s hard to end with her. #incomparable
Lisa Raye- I keep hoping for a huge movie which puts her own unique personality and brand of Black woman on display…And I am still convinced The Playa’s Club was one of our best and smartest Black films of all time.
Kimberly Elise- She reminds me of myself each and every time.
Jada Pinkett-Smith- She is our Bette Davis.
Kerry Washington- I saw her first in a movie called Boost. She was a professional shoplifter. I was kid. Girl played that part…and look at her now.
Gabrielle Union- I am happy people now see she is so much more than a pretty face.
Angela Bassett. She’s been with us so long that by now she feels like my mother or aunt- and looks like them too!
Cicely Tyson- Can Obama title her Dame Cicely Tyson?
Alfre Woodward- I was so happy to see her in the Oscar Winner for Best Picture… that’s always been her league, and it’s about damned time.