I can’t deny that I was not even aware that the Emmy’s were this past Sunday night. In an attempt to keep myself relatively sane, I had decided that I wasn’t going to invest my time in award shows beyond the red carpet for self-preservation reasons. I was planning on studying for my cultural anthropology class and going to sleep promptly at midnight. After falling asleep at 1:30 and waking up at 3:00 am, I opened my Tumblr to see something that may have partially prevented me from getting any sleep for the rest of the night. I saw Viola Davis’ acceptance speech for award for Best Actress in a TV drama, an award for which she is the first African American to win.
First they were just small tears rolling down my cheeks and on to my pillow as I lay down with my phone in my right hand and my broken earphones, trying to hear clearly what she was saying. Soon I was bawling, hand over my mouth trying not to wake my roommate.
Why was I crying so hard? I don’t want to be an actress. While I like watching TV, I don’t have an overwhelming love for How to Get Away With Murder. And yet, I was laying there, now arm used to prop up my body, crying.
The speech, at only a minute long, reads as follows:
‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. Let me tell you something: the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black. And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy. Thank you.”
I was crying because Harriet Tubman’s words, though unknown to me at the time, rang so true even in modern times, and even to me since I was a little girl.
I was crying because it became so clear to me how little opportunity I had and how far I was able to make it. Still I have so far to go. I was crying because I realized that hope was not lost. That I already had amazing sources for representation, a little late, but valuable nonetheless.
But mostly I was crying because this meant that my cousins, my future nieces, daughters, granddaughters, etc. would be able to look on tv and see such beautiful amazing women on their screens of every shade. I was crying because little black girls are so special and they, we, really deserve that. And lastly I was crying because I looked at Viola Davis. Here, on my little phone screen was this women who society may not deem as conventionally beautiful. Here is a woman who has dark skin, big lips and a big nose, and short kinky hair, and she is beautiful. I saw one of the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I saw myself, I saw my mother, my aunts, my cousins, my ancestors. And for the first time I was able to say we are beautiful, I am beautiful, and believe it as truth despite nay-sayers, and with every ounce of my being.