The 71st Emmy Awards were held on Sunday night, a ceremony to mark the boldest and brightest talent in television. A plethora of Black Hollywood were up for awards across all of the night’s biggest categories. But if we’re honest, there were a few nominees that we were vying for over everyone else, including, Ava DuVernay for Outstanding Director for a Limited Series (When They See Us), Jharrel Jerome, for Best Actor in A Limited Series (When They See Us) and Billy Porter for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Pose).
As we know award shows over the last seven years have faced legitimate scrutiny for their lack of visibility when it comes to honoring and acknowledging Black artists. But the night handed us some unforgettable moments in regards to race, gender equality and diversity visibility.
Check out some of the moments Black Twitter still can’t get over, below.
Jerome was undoubtedly one of the night’s darlings for his soul-stirring performance in When They See Us as Korey Wise, a member of the Exonerated Five. As presenters Angela Bassett and Peter Krause took the stage to reveal the winner for the Best Actor in a Limited Series award, most of Black America held their breath until Jerome’s name was announced. Many pointed out it was clear Jerome was the winner after Bassett’s face light up while she opened the envelope. As Jerome ascended the stage to a standing ovation, the moment proved to be just as emotional as he displayed raw emotion while expressing his gratitude to his mom, his cast and of course the men who made it all possible through their heartbreak and rawness, the Exonerated Five. Jerome became the first Afro-Latino actor (Jerome is Dominican-American) to win the award.
From the stages of Broadway to the big screen, Porter has had a successful and engaging career in Hollywood. But it was his role as Pray Tell in FX’s Pose that captured the hearts and minds of mainstream America, helping to shed light on New York’s ballroom community of the 70’s through the 90’s, which was comprised and carried out on the backs of the Black gay and trans community. As Porter accepted his speech he quoted James Baldwin saying, “Took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself, and halfway believed, before I could walk around this Earth like I had the right to be here.” Words from the iconic Black gay writer which still resound so deeply in 2019. Porter’s win made him the first openly gay man to be nominated and win Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series at the Emmys.
RuPaul’s win for Drag Race proved to be one of the controversial moments of the evening, but more so happened backstage as the entertainer stood flocked by the show’s writing and creative staff, making him the lone brown face on the platform. Essence’s Danielle Young questioned RuPaul backstage about the glaring lack of diversity among the staff, to which RuPual responded, “Well first of all, most of our show is Black, gay and drag queen, so check, check, and check. But we’re pretty diverse,” he began.
“Yes, there are lots of different types of people here. Is it important? Absolutely, you know, hey, you know I grew up—I had to fight….it wasn’t easy getting here. You know what I had to do, and some of the things I’m not going to repeat what I had to do,” he said.
While the question seemingly went unaddressed, many pivotal Black LGBTQ voices weighed in on the imagery and how RuPaul’s lack of accountability in his answer proved to be a problem area. While RuPaul has undoubtedly broke ground as one of the most commercial and influential drag queens of the last 30 years, the all-white faces around him should be a wake up call in the need to honor Black queer creatives who work behind the scenes who often go without opportunity.
I don’t have any one idea about RuPaul, but I do have a wish: I wish RuPaul was brave enough to embody the same courageous and bold energy that gave him a chance to breakthrough the circumstances he was born into, and put it in service of other Black queer people’s careers.
— Myles E. Johnson (@hausmuva) September 23, 2019
Actress Michelle Williams won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for FX’s Fosse/Verdon, but instead used her acceptance speech to highlight the importance of equity for women in the workplace. Williams also highlighted the issue of equal pay for women, especially women of color. Williams faced the issued herself as she was paid eight times less than her All The Money In The World co-star Mark Wahlberg during the reshooting of several scenes in the wake of the Kevin Space sexual assault scandal. Williams was reportedly paid under $1,000 for the reshoot while Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million. However, it was revealed that Wahlberg donated his $1.5 million to the Time’s Up campaign.
In August we celebrated Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which highlights the time it takes Black women (almost nine months) to make the same amount as their white peers. Black women make 61 cents per dollar paid to white, non-hispanic men. In her speech Williams made it painfully clear how hard it is for women of color, who earn 52 cents on the dollar of their white male counterparts. The stat refers to the pay gap between Hispanic women and white men, but still speaks to the ongoing wage inequity in America.
I transcribed all of Michelle Williams’ incredible #Emmys2019 speech, which you should all read and/or watch ASAP: pic.twitter.com/9HtjeJXSOm
— Jessica Derschowitz (@jessicasara) September 23, 2019
“And so the next time a woman, and especially a woman of color—because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to let her white male counterpart—tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her. Because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it,” Williams said.