A memorable night at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday, as the star of ABC’s "How to Get Away With Murder" became the first Black woman to win the award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series.
“The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity,” Davis said in her acceptance speech to a standing ovation. To see Blacks, especially Black women, still making such groundbreaking strides–even in 2015–speak volumes.
Davis makes a clear statement: “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people – people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be Black.” A notable night for a number of Black actresses– Uzo Aduba won Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series for her work in “Orange Is the New Black” and Regina King took home a statuette for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie for her part in “American Crime.”
While these Black women represented very well, their awards spoke to so much more. As a creative myself, I recognize the importance of recognition amongst your peers. One thing to keep in mind is recognition does not equate validation. Knowing who you are, knowing your craft and skill, and knowing your potential is one thing, but just as Ms. Davis said, “opportunity” for recognition is oftentimes where the challenge lies.
Throughout history, the greatest changes people (Black people, specifically) have seen has been when they no longer waited to be included, but took matters in their own hands. This goes for politicians, athletes, dancers, and even community members. And what’s more is that we all need to bring our own craft to the table. It was through a number of innovative efforts by such Black writers as Shonda Rhimes that have allowed the space for Black actresses like Viola Davis and Kerry Washington to shine.
Many of us, for years, have recognized the strength and grace in Ms. Davis’ work, yet it is great when the “masses” can acknowledge greatness as well. But as we celebrate these women, I would like to encourage us all to not wait to be validated, but continue to create spaces, tell stories, and make footprints that the “masses” cannot ignore. Let’s work to make sure opportunity becomes less of an obstacle, but an inspiration.