It’s My Turn
INT. Hollywood Academy Awards Ceremony – Soon to be a historic Sunday, March 2nd – NIGHT.
What would have happened had Lupita Nyong’o spoken the following words as she graciously accepted her Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her part as the economically and sexually exploited enslaved African woman, Patsey?
“I want to thank Hattie McDaniel for opening the door for me, a black woman...A Kenyan...An African...To be able to realize my dream here in the United States of America…”
Imagine that. Stay with that thought for just a moment. Linger. Let it marinate. Stay. Contemplate. Stay. Ponder. Stay. Hmmm.
Consider the monumental impact had those unspoken words actually been delivered in Lupita’s sweet, delicate, distinguished Afro-Brit accent, issuing forth from her stunning natural beautiful African self. Imagine such a moment of beautiful black bliss in Hollywood -- never before on screen or on stage – that everyone there in the audience seemed to enjoy, applaud and appreciate.
Now, I’m not saying that she should have uttered those words, or that she was wrong for not expressing them-- but just imagine the impression had the spirit of Patsey inspired, or instructed, the natural, deep chocolate - skinned Kenyan actress, to clearly, definitively and boldly pronounce them - release them - as the first words from her lips, her mind, her heart – her soul. Stay.
Real quick CUT AWAY – just in case you’re not aware, during her acceptance speech Lupita, being the well-grounded African woman that she is, recognized and honored the spirit and presence of Patsey “for her guidance.” Equally, when addressing the director Steve McQueen, Lupita also told him, “I am certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful.” Evoking, recognizing and honoring the ancestors is an African thing.
So it’s not far-fetched for me to consider the possibility that maybe – just maybe - the ancestors, including Hattie McDaniel herself, might have inspired Lupita to specifically evoke, and thank, Hattie Mae McDaniel.
Well – okay - it might have been too much for Hattie to ask or insist that her own name be mentioned and honored – but, then, how about the spirits of Madam Sul-Te-Wan, Ethel Waters, Juanita Moore or Beau Richards? They, too, are now among the ancestors living in the ancestral world.
So, now. What would have happened?
One. Connection and continuity. The important historical, cultural and political relationship would have been made between Lupita – a Kenyan actress, trained at the prestigious Yale School of Drama and who was receiving a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her film acting debut and Hattie McDaniel – an African American actress and performer on stage, TV, film and radio (the first black woman to sing on radio) and the first African-American to receive an Academy Award, period, for her supporting role in “Gone With The Wind.” The black presence and struggle in Hollywood includes and encompasses black people throughout the Diaspora.
Second. Introduction and Exposure.
How many Continental Africans know about Hattie McDaniel or the history of African-Americans in North American cinema – Hollywood and/or Independent? How many black people, globally, are aware? I think that the mere mention of Hattie McDaniel would have inspired many to “Google” her name, thereby starting a landslide process that would have introduced them to the historical presence and participation of black folks in filmmaking (especially North America cinema) since the early 1900s.
Third, and lastly: A nod toward the global African village. Such a conjured statement would have contributed to the establishment, recognition, solidification or healing of broken, unacknowledged, or even denied, familial bonds between African-Americans and Africans, artistically, culturally, historically. Maybe even, politically. FLASH BACK ENDS.
Well, she didn’t say it. And here we are.
However, as Lupita did indicate, during her speech acceptance, that the golden Oscar statue (holy shades of Ptah!) serves as a reminder, to every child throughout the world, that their dreams, too, are valid…
I, too, can dream – can’t I?
Timothy Aaron-Styles who calls himself a proud Rockaway native, has worked in media, communications, the arts and entertainment in New York, Bermuda and Georgia. He has a B.A. in Film and video from Georgia State University where he concentrated in Screenwriting and Film Theory. Visit his blog at: colourconversations. wordpress.com.