So, I’ve been meaning to write about the Emmys, but I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t sure which angle to take it on (I know right, #JournalistProblems). Then I decided to talk about my experience, witnessing history right in front of my eyes.
In an industry that has been under a microscope since the infamous 2015 hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, diversity in television and film have been popping up little by little. While there is a lot of work to be done, 2016 and 2017 has been a great jumping off point for actors and content creators of color.
This year, I was fortunate enough to attend the 69th annual Primetime Emmys. I was so excited because it was one of the award shows I wanted to attended as a child. It was a dream of mine to attend the Emmys and see all the actors from my favorite tv shows, and being able to do this at a young age was truly an honor. I was expecting to have fun and have a few fanboy moments, but I wasn’t expecting attending an award show to be a life changing experience.
I was in the audience and I saw a few people of color who were not celebrities, but the group of nominees that were there were slightly diverse; that is something I noticed from the jump. While sitting and waiting, I was able to see and exchange words with Anthony Anderson, Deon Cole, Leslie Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Tracee Ellis Ross (I was shocked when I saw her), Gabrielle Union, Dwayne Wade, Samira Wiley, and a host of others. As the show went on, the host, Stephen Colbert, made numerous jokes about the political, social, and weather climate this country is going through, as well as puns about the current popular televisions shows. I wasn’t expecting Stephen Colbert to take social issues all throughout the show; his jokes were witty and funny, I couldn’t stop laughing.
I was having such a good time, that I didn’t noticed until I was at an afterparty that I was witnessing change in television history in front of my eyes. I was witnessing breakthroughs in diversity. I was there when Riz Ahmed became the first South Asian man to win an Emmy award for acting; in a year when the lack of Asian representation has been called out and the whitewashing of Asian movies and characters have come to the forefront, I was happy to see a man of Asian descent take home an award and was acknowledged for his work.
As black man, I was honored to witness Donald Glover win an award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, and I was even more honored when Lena Waithe, a fellow Chicago native, won for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Both were the first African-Americans (first black director for Glover and first black woman for Waithe respectively), and to witness the excitement on their faces, seeing everyone congratulate them, and seeing people rally behind them, I got a special feeling inside of me. It was more than excitement, and it was more than #BlackBoyJoy or #BlackGirlMagic. For me, this was seeing a prejudice wall finally being taken apart. When Ahmed, Glover, and Waithe took to the stage, I saw the people in the audience, who were mostly white, beginning to have a change a heart and a change of mind. I witness people starting to realize, “Hey, our skin is different but our stories are so connected”. I was there, in the audience to witness three people of color get on stage, accepting awards, and tell the world that actors of color are here and we can do more than the stereotypical roles you put us in. We can connect with audiences from all backgrounds, we can connect to the human struggle of being voiceless.
I often believe that sometimes when we, as people of color, get casted in roles on tv or get jobs on the production side, it’s because of our race or how they think we live, not because of our work ethic. It’s easy to talk about black musicians, inner city life, and ghetto culture; it’s nothing wrong those topics, but for the longest, I felt that Hollywood, and those at home, were too afraid to think about the box and tell our stories in everyday form. Now that we have shows like Insecure and Blackish, and winners such as Donald Glover and Lena Waithe, our voices, our topics, our storylines can expand...but more importantly, our talents can reach new heights.