the 2015 emmys were historic. for the first time in the academy’s existence, a black woman won the best leading actress in a television drama award. as viola davis took the stage to accept her golden statue, she quoted harriet tubman and reminded the world that the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.
i cried at the monumental occasion of seeing not one, but three extremely talented black women receive the accolades they certainly deserve.
black women’s very existence is a victory given the daily oppression and microagressions we face. therefore, last night’s awards show wasn’t just about an award, but more importantly about visibility.
here are five reasons why visibility matters for black women:
1. we’re told we’re not beautiful. while black women are seldom overtly denounced as ugly in mainstream media, every commercial, advertisement, magazine, film and media source that denies our beauty sends that message. watching viola davis accept her award rocking natural hair and a red lip, told a dark skin black girl that she’s beautiful not despite her color, but because of her color.
2. the arts aren’t just for white people. uzo aduba swore to herself that orange is the new black would be her last audition. after years of trying to break into acting, the roles and paychecks weren’t coming in, and she decided to call it quits. however, the most high had a different plan — what she’s done with the role of “crazy eyes” is nothing short of genius. the world deserves to see black women excelling in the arts and expressing their talent to its fullest.
3. when one wins, we all win. it’s beautiful to see black women go up for each other during times of triumph. with all the daily reminders of how we are less than kind to one another, seeing the overwhelming support black actresses received last night was touching. viola, uzo and regina didn’t just win. we all won.
4. black excellence don’t take a day off. while i recognize the harm caused by the “we have to be ten times better” narrative, it remains true that our accolades are slow to come despite years of hard work. instead of chasing their recognition, viability is a reminder that we were shining even when no one was watching.
5. we are the hopes and dreams of the enslaved. our ancestors didn’t fight for us to win awards, but for us to have the opportunity to win awards. i can only hope that our stages become bigger and our stories become wider.