An edited version of this interview ran on Indian Country Today Media Network:
In the Australian hit movie The Sapphires, Shari Sebbens plays Kay, a “white-looking” Aboriginal girl who is stolen from her family to live with Australians who are not indigenous to the country. Stripped from her family and friends, Kay reunites with her cousins to join a Supremes-style R&B girl group that tours Vietnam and entertains American troops during the war. Based on a true story, The Sapphires expresses hope, joy, wonder, and the growing empowerment of four fierce Aboriginal women who seek opportunity despite the barriers of their dispossession.
In an exclusive, 2 part interview for ICTMN, Sebbens is just as delightful as the movie in which she co-stars. Her infectious laughter provided a lovely background sound to our conversation. We talked about important and everyday issues affecting indigenous women – and all women-of-color. As two women-of-color who happen to be lighter in complexion, Sebbens and I talked like girlfriends who have known each other forever. At key moments, we even started finishing each other’s sentences. And we talked about everything, from men, inter-racial relationships, and the enduring influence of Tupac to indigenous land loss, the erasure of indigenous struggles from the classroom, and the power of the Internet to connect indigenous peoples around the world through #IdleNoMore.
In this engaging and entertaining interview, even a simple question like asking Sebbens’ age led to clever banter and laughter:
ICTMN: How old are you… if you’re allowed to say, Actress? [laughter]
SEBBENS: Yeah, my agent would be like, ‘Don’t say it. Don’t say it.’ [laughter]
ICTMN: OK – no worries.
SEBBENS: [With affected voice ] I’m however old you want me to be. [laughter]
ICTMN: You want me to play an elderly person? I’ve got you. You want me to play an infant? I can pull that off. [huge laugh] Just give me my SAG card.
SEBBENS: [With another, different affected voice] The age range is 5 months to 55. [huge laugh]
ICTMN: There you go.
ICTMN: But you were born and raised in Australia?
ICTMN: Did you grow up knowing each other?
SEBBENS: We knew of each other. I went to high school with Jessica’s sister. Miranda’s mom and my mom worked together. Our families have all had connections. We just never really met each other…Miranda and I went to the same drama school, NIDA [National Institute of Dramatic Art], in Sydney, so we met there, and we were besties before we started filming Sapphires, and then we all came together on that little project.
ICTMN: Nice. So, you always wanted to be an actress?
ICTMN: When did you start drama school?
SEBBENS: I started studying at NIDA in 2007. Prior to that, in 2006, I did the Aboriginal Theatre Course at WAPO, which is the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. That’s a mouthful. That’s Hugh Jackman’s drama school.
ICTMN: Did you just study acting, or did you also study singing?
SEBBENS: Just acting, but they have music components and movement components.
ICTMN: Did you grow up in a city, or did you grow up in a more rural town?
SEBBENS: It depends who you’re talking to. Darwin people say it’s a city. City people say, ‘No, it’s a small town.’ [laughter] It’s kind of the best place in Australia, I think. It’s not a huge city, with a population of 200,000 or something. It’s one of the few places in Australia that has a really high percentage of indigenous Australians living in the city. So, for me, it’s a really multicultural, amazing town to grow up.
ICTMN: In the schools that you attended prior to the two drama schools, were you in integrated schools, or were the schools mostly segregated?
SEBBENS: Ahhh, definitely integrated.
ICTMN: Were you in school with White kids?
SEBBENS: Yeah, yeah – absolutely, yeah.
ICTMN: In the same classes?
SEBBENS: Yeah, yup, yup.
ICTMN: Hanging out at the same lunch table?
ICTMN: Oh, cool.
SEBBENS: That’s the beautiful thing about Darwin. My boyfriend, who is a white boy [laughter], people meet him, and he’s got this Darwin accent, and people go, “Oh, are you indigenous? Are you a Black fella?” And he’s like, “Naw, naw.” [laughter] But he sounds like he is to city people. [laughter] I was shocked when I moved to Sydney in 2007, one of my classmates at NIDA said, “Oh, you’re the first Aboriginal person I’ve met.” And I just could not get my head around that, because, in Darwin, you walk down the street, and every 2nd or 3rd person is indigenous or Asian or Greek. It’s one of the few examples I’ve seen where multicultural, not meaning many cultures, but actually living together and functioning together, as a really wonderful, amazing, organism.
ICTMN: So, when you’re walking down the street in your hometown or in Sydney… how do you spell Darwin?
ICTMN: OK. [Sebbens starts laughing] I just wanna make sure I’m catching the accent. [With a hard r.] Dar-Win. [Much laughter] So, when you’re walking down the street in Darwin, or Sydney or Melbourne or anywhere in the country, are people able to identify you as indigenous?
SEBBENS: In Darwin, yup. Because people know my family –
ICTMN: No, but strangers who look at you, would they be able –
SEBBENS: Yeah, in Darwin they can. Indigenous Australians… My own mob see it in me more than white fellas do. White people won’t… they just don’t get it. But Black fellas can spot it.
SEBBENS: You know, they just go… there will be that thing: “Where are you from?” “Darwin.” “Ah, yeah.” And they just know. [laughter] No one else really gets it.
ICTMN: The same thing happens in this country. Particularly for African Americans. I’m a Black woman, and it’s interesting… When the first Black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, won? I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of her and know what she looks like. She’s clearly Black.
SEBBENS: Yeah, yeah, yeah [already laughing]
ICTMN: But it was amazing to me, how long it took White Americans to realize it: The first Black woman to become Miss America had been crowned. Because they literally did not see her Blackness. Right?
ICTMN: Yeah. It’s interesting. I didn’t know a single Black person, and I know a lot of Black people, who couldn’t tell that she was African American.So, it’s interesting the way that…
ICTMN: Your nearness to whiteness can be just enough to disable white people from seeing who you really are.
SEBBENS: Yeah. And that’s the frustrating thing…
ICTMN: Even if you’ve grown up in, for you Aboriginal, for me Black, culture.
SEBBENS: Like for me, growing up in Darwin. My mother is from Broome, originally, which is in Western Australia. And everyone there knows who I am, because they know my family. We’re one of the biggest families in Broome. And my whole life I’d grown up knowing who I am, no one questioning me, my mother teaching me who I am, and my grandmother and my aunties and everything… and then moving to Sydney, and I was just so offended that all of a sudden, people were making me question my identity.
ICTMN: Yeah: What are you?
SEBBENS: Because they couldn’t see, they had a problem with it, I didn’t look, to them, what they wanted me to look like, or what they expected me to look like.
SEBBENS: And that’s really frustrating. And it comes from my own mob, too. There are people in Sydney… It’s not every Black fella who looks at me and goes, “Oh, you’re one of us.” Some of them just… most do, but, that’s when it’s really disheartening, when people outside of my life, who actually have no impact on my life, make me question things, who try to confront me with that.
SEBBENS: And I’m just, I’m very blessed to have a mother who is really strong and who has taught me and my siblings and all my family to know who we are.
ICTMN: Beautiful. I want to know, in terms of the film itself, there is, for me, watching the film, this kind of affinity for Blackness, specifically, for my culture. Because I’m listening to the music, even before the movie started, and I’m ready to get up and start dancing.
SEBBENS: Yeah, Yeah! [laughing]
ICTMN: I’m flashing back to the old family get-togethers, family reunions, cook-outs in the backyard.
SEBBENS: Yes! [laughing]
ICTMN: I’m like, “Oh, I remember when Aunt Diane used to do this dance off of that song!”
SEBBENS: [laughing] Yeah!
ICTMN: It’s constant in the film. The promoter is a Black man. There are, obviously white and Black troops, but your love interest and the love interests of the other women in the film are African American - and brown-skin, brothers. [much laughter] Not looking like me Black men. [much laughter] It’s like, real chocolate, you know? [much laughter] In the beginning of the film, the girls are interested in Charley Pride. But, this is still Black culture. Country Western is of course rooted in….. well, that’s a whole other thing. [laughter] But anyway, we won’t go there. [laughter] Don’t want to offend the South. [laughter] I just want to know, growing up, did you guys listen to Hip Hop, Soul, R&B?
SEBBENS: Do you know, it is so massive for indigenous Australian mob. Hip Hop and R&B, Motown - Country and Western for our older generation, like our parents, our nanas, and grandparents. You go to Darwin today, and 15 year olds are still tagging, like, “Tupac Rules” and stuff on bus stops. [much laughter] It’s really funny because, I got older, and I realized that, historically, we have more in common with First Nation mob -
SEBBENS: - with what’s happened.
SEBBENS: And definitely there are parallels between African American struggles and indigenous Australian struggles. But I think it’s a thing of… Indigenous Australian mob are able to see… for a little Black kid in Australia to turn on the television and see a Black man singing or a Black woman singing on a TV show… America saturates our screens and our airwaves, as it does the rest of the world. And it’s not a bad thing, it’s a great thing. You guys just – pop culture is your thing. [much laughter]
ICTMN: It’s what we do. [laughing] It’s all we do.
SEBBENS: And you do it well. [more laughter] And we take that in – definitely. Extremely influenced. I mean, Jessica’s an R&B girl through and through. That’s what been great about all this [with the film]. I’m so excited about her next album, because it’s gonna be total R&B, which will be like the first. White Australia – not so much, but definitely Black fellas over there, Indigenous Australians dig it.
ICTMN: Nice. And were they all, “Yay, Obama.” [laughter]
SEBBENS: Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
ICTMN: OK. [laughter]
SEBBENS: Absolutely. The people who do have an opinion of it. People were just excited. I remember when he first got elected, thinking, even in Alice Springs, some central, remote desert, some kid is gonna see this man onscreen who is the president of the United States…
SEBBENS: …and his skin color is the same as his or this little girl. Whatever your political beliefs are, I think… we’ve just had our first indigenous head of state introduced into Parliament in Australia.
ICTMN: Nice. Such a proud moment.
SEBBENS: The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory has now been sworn in, an indigenous fella, so that’s really exciting for us.
ICTMN: Well Indian Country Today is primarily focused on Native Americans and First Nation communities.
ICTMN: So we should talk about that. [much laughter] Do you grow up, in your education, in school, or just sort of generally, with an awareness of indigenous rights and indigenous issues on a global level, or is that something that you kind of have to come to as an adult?
SEBBENS: It’s something you have to come to as an adult. Australia is… you know, funny enough, we learn a lot about America. We study books about slavery and things like that. When I was in high school, we didn’t do anything like that about indigenous Australian history.
SEBBENS: In Legal Studies we learned what terra nullius was and the Native Title Act – for like a week.
SEBBENS: Yet we spent a whole term watching Roots and analyzing – which is amazing, and all that amazing writing, but globally I think we’re just getting to the stage. I think social media has had a huge impact with this generation, things like #IdleNoMore. Stuff like that is all over Twitter. I’ve got a friend, who’s a young activist, I guess you could call it, in Sydney, and she’s got a pen pal in Canada. And they’re swapping #IdleNoMore stickers from Canada to Australia and all this amazing stuff. So I think, earlier on, it was just a thing of being focused on our own world and our own struggles and issues as indigenous Australians.
SEBBENS: But now, because of the Internet and because social media, it’s so much easier to understand what’s happening globally, and how you can fit into that, and how you can learn from other mob. So, that’s what’s happening.
ICTMN: One thing that I love about the film is that it isn’t about a white experience with Aboriginal people. It’s about Aboriginal people. It starts off at home, and although I’m not going to give this away, it ends up at home. In that final scene, I was so happy to see you girls going home and performing for your families because that’s the most important audience.
SEBBENS: Yeah, exactly. That’s what I love. There’s a great speech that Chris’ character Dave gives about performing at The Apollo Theatre, but I love that it comes back. It culminates, like you said, with them performing for the most important audience, which is their family. Because whatever happens after that, it doesn’t matter.
ICTMN: Do you think that the way that Aboriginal life is portrayed – it’s almost like a homeland – what is it called, where the Aboriginals are kept?
SEBBENS: We call them missions - like reserves, I guess.
ICTMN: So in South Africa it would be a homeland, or here it would be a reservation. So for you it’s a mission.
ICTMN: OK. So is mission life accurately portrayed in the film, as much as we see it in the movie?
SEBBENS: Yeah. Do you know what, I think because the film is so much Tony’s [Tony Briggs, screenwriter] memories of childhood, Tony’s mother’s memories of their childhood and his aunties’ memories, I know a few people in Australia, white people, were like, “Oh, they’ve portrayed mission life as this happy, bright, chirpy existence.” And, it’s like, “You know what? You inflicted the suffering upon us. We found the joy and the laughter through that, through family. And that’s what those scenes are. That’s what the mission life is. No one is denying that what’s going on inside that house is a mother who’s lost her child, but what indigenous people have done so well is cling together and stay strong in their communities and survive through laughter and family connection. So, in that sense, it’s a very accurate depiction.
ICTMN: Yeah. I think there’s always this moment where people from outside communities of color are stunned at the way that we manage to smile through our lives.
SEBBENS: Yeah. They want us to be –
ICTMN: - either smiling and happy constantly or –
SEBBENS: – just constantly beaten down. Yeah.
ICTMN: Instead of being human. Right? And having the full emotional experience.
SEBBENS: That’s it. And if we had done a film that was that side of that story, I don’t think a lot of Australia would have sat up and paid attention the way they have responded to this film.
ICTMN: Why not?
SEBBENS: Because people feel like they’ve heard it before, and they forget that there’s hundreds of thousands of stories to tell. And they’re getting to tell theirs every day on screen. Every time you turn on… Australian television, Australian screen needs to be braver and take a big step in their representation of real Australia.
SEBBENS: I think they feel like, “We know that story. We watched Rabbit Proof Fence or we watched Sampson and Delilah. We get it guys.” Which is a really crappy attitude to have.
SEBBENS: But the beautiful thing – like you said, it’s not the white experience. I think that’s why the film’s done so well. Because, we’re at a stage in Australia where we have indigenous writers. We’ve got indigenous producers, indigenous directors, indigenous actors. It’s not the white person’s take on the indigenous story. It’s completely the indigenous person’s story, and therefore it becomes A Story, for anyone. And I think that’s why audiences can connect with it more, because we’re not going, “OK, now we’re telling you an indigenous story.” We’re just telling you a story, about our family.
ICTMN: And how beautiful. And what a blessing.
SEBBENS: Yeah, man. Definitely.
ICTMN: And have the very diverse communities of Aboriginal people across the board, have people embraced it?
SEBBENS: So much. We knew they would. When I first read the script, I was just on the bed in tears, from laughter, from sadness. I walked out to my mom, and I was like, “Mom. You’ve got to read this script.” And my mom was like, “What? What?” [laughter]. We all knew. Tony knew when he was writing it, what he was on to. And Wayne [Blair, director]. We knew instantly in our hearts that our mob would respond to it and love it. And the beautiful surprise has been how the world has responded to it.
This post original appeared on TheRootDC.com:
Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 03/22/2013
'180 Days’ and ‘American Promise’: Two films that show racial and financial disparities in America’s school systems
By Eisa Nefertari Ulen
Two films scheduled to air on PBS in the coming days examine schooling in America and feature two vastly different populations. In 180 Days, a two-part documentary that spends one year in Washington’s DC Metropolitan High School, students are overwhelmingly poor, families are fractured by drug abuse and homelessness, and children struggle to resist the lure of criminal activity. In American Promise, a documentary that spends 12 years in New York City’s The Dalton School, students are overwhelmingly rich, families are cohered to high expectations and achievement, and children struggle to maintain academic excellence.
Though the populations featured in each film could not be more different, the young people in them are linked by race, and that one common element is so powerful that, though the external, day-to-day experiences in each school are vastly different, the internalized fears, the yearning to find one’s place, and, yes, the unseen yet ever-present and all-powerful force of institutionalized racism limiting the potential of each student could not be more achingly similar.
The conversations launched by each film are also achingly similar. After screenings for each movie, black parents clustered, huddled in their desire to reach the same end goal: How to achieve the best education for our children. How to win.
At DC Met, as the District public high school is lovingly called by the adults and young people featured in 180 Days, school principal Tanisha Williams Minor races and even rhymes to prepare her students to take the DC Comprehensive Assessment System tests (DC CAS). A bright and beautiful young woman willing to bop and rap to engage and motivate her students, Minor code-switches with ease, transitioning from standard English to colloquial expressions and expressing authentic closeness with her students - and the communities from which they come. The DC CAS scores in math and English are one in a series of about 15 metrics that Minor says the District of Columbia Public Schools system uses to rate schools and determine the professional destinies of the adults who staff them. If students fail, the principal and teachers fail, and school staff members may lose their jobs.
Teachers join students preparing for the DC CAS in the school cafeteria and help them rotate through learning centers where basic skills are drilled through worksheets, student play, and educational games. Seemingly liberated by Minor’s leadership style, one teacher jokes about one student’s use of the letter D, “as in ‘das’ not the correct answer.” A moment later in the film, after their shared laughter, the same teacher explains why she requires deeper thinking about the work from a group of successful students before they can move along to the next learning center: “I need you to understand why these answers are correct. You’re not going to fail this test on my watch.”
Without employing the near-militaristic use of discipline in many franchise charter schools popping up around the country, teachers at DC Met demand students reach their personal best - and scores improve. According to Minor, 100% of DC Met students improved on the DC CAS, though not as much as DC Public Schools Administrators wanted them to. In a system where the Black-White achievement gap is more than twice the national average, Minor considers a statistic like the 92 percent attendance rate she achieved with a student population prone to truancy an important victory. Her numbers, however, may not be enough to save the school.
Minor laments the numbers-driven approach to assessing schools that dominate public schooling and yearns for what she calls stories-driven assessment. During the Q&A following a screening of the film, Minor asked the audience to consider the experience of black students on the DC Metro, riding with early morning commuters who don’t look like them, or even at them, who don’t want to see them as they ride through rush hour on their way to school. Let’s start with that story, she offers.
Their anxiety doesn’t disappear in the afternoon. As DC Met In-School Suspension Coordinator and basketball coach Gary Barnes says in the film, consider that when some of these young people ride home on the Metro, they aren’t even sure they have a home to ride to. Their housing situation is so unstable, they may not be able to eat, may not know where to sleep, may not have clean clothes for the next school day. And the students in these situations will not tell their teachers this story. They simply show up, and in what one school social worker in the film calls the “Get Over It Society,” they have not had the opportunity to process their feelings. The young learner staying with someone other than whoever is listed in the official paperwork feels like their home situation is really none of the teacher’s business, Barnes says.
How will these kids respond when a teacher asks a simple question like where is your homework? Certainly not by stating they had no chance to complete it as they tried to figure out housing for the night.
The key, Barnes says, is to convince these young learners that the adults really want to help and not use the students as a statistic, to bump scores to save a job, or to dominate a league or division to get a trophy.
Minor uses the Big Picture Model at DC Met. When a student doesn’t have a pen, teachers simply supply one instead of denigrating him for not being prepared. By helping kids recognize their inherent greatness first, and then overcoming whatever obstacles are in place in order to help them in the world outside school, Minor says she and her staff are “moving a mountain every day.”
Coach Barnes moves mountains with honest talk. He tells players that if they win a championship in high school but can’t get a job after they graduate, then “sports has used you.” The school has won accolades, the coach has received recognition, but “you’re on the street looking for a job.” And, Barnes tells them with the same quiet passion as the teacher in the school cafeteria DC CAS drill learning center, I’m not going to let that happen to you.
Raven Q. selected DC Met over Anacostia High School because she wanted to be in the school’s very first graduating class. When her grandmother reported her drug-addicted mother to social services, Raven and her brother were sent to live in separate homes. In the film, Raven says she robbed people just to experience the daily sensation of placing her fist against her victim’s flesh. Attacking strangers, she says, enabled her to express her feelings.
After a close friend is shot multiple times and killed for stealing a cellular telephone, Raven determines to change the course of her young life. In the foster home where she lives, she shows one wall of her room, where she has hung t-shirts that are designed to pay homage to her peers who have died on the DC streets. On the opposite wall, she has hung memorabilia that celebrates her successes and motivates her, images like the test she took at DC Met that earned her a B-.
In her senior year, Raven joins a poetry club, where she reads Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son.” Another poet reads in his own work that he going to take “college classes with this 1.6 average.”
Raven learns to express herself on paper instead of across a victim’s face at DC Met - and she feels safe enough to write and share poetry in a school where, she said during a post-screening Q&A, teachers insist on showing students how important they are, who “heard my side,” she said, who “always cared.”
Raven wanted to go to college, but didn’t know how. Counselors at DC Met held her hand through the application process. In 180 Days, viewers will cheer when they see Raven ring a bell to celebrate her acceptance to Bennett College, an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) where she currently majors in social work. During her first semester at Bennett, Raven improved from her solid B- test score and earned placement on the school’s Honors and Dean’s Lists.
Dispelling the myth that children situated on the margins of American society and at the bottom in American schools will never obtain an undergraduate degree, use those credentials to get a job, and use that job to give back to the communities from which they come, as Raven says she wants to do because she “grew up in the system,” is one of the many stories Principal Minor wants to tell. These are the stories that should drive the public discourse about American education and so-called failing schools. It is a privilege to hear these stories as they are told in this film.
“180 Days” director/producer Jacquie Jones says three teachers didn’t sign the release forms to appear in the documentary until late in the filmmaking process. At a screening in DC, one of those three teachers approached Jones and said she was glad she had signed the release. “I want my mom and dad to see this,” she told Jones. “I want people to see what we do every day.”
“180 Days” reminds us that public education is a civil right. Listening to the stories in this powerful film is just one way of joining The Movement. Listening is one way to help all our children get to the end zone, to succeed in school systems that still have not been structured for them to win.
Eisa Nefertari Ulen is author of the novel “Crystelle Mourning”. She can be reached at www.EisaUlen.com.
This post originally ran on TheRootDC.com:
Posted at 12:16 PM ET, 02/25/2013
Seth MacFarlane and The Oscars: What’s all the fuss?
By Eisa Nefertari Ulen
The Oscars got political again this year, though clearly not in the way many viewers may have preferred. Social media hummed with a cacophony of righteous clicks, but it was a drumbeat of outrage against the night’s master of ceremonies, Seth MacFarlane. Discontent, expressed in 140 characters or less, made a mad cadence down many a timeline before MacFarlane could even get through his performance of “The Boob Song”.
“Can someone kill seth macfarlane on stage that would be nice,” was typical of some of the more hardcore tweets. Even NPR weighed in this morning about how the reviews of MacFarlane were less than stellar in some parts.
But anyone familiar with Seth MacFarlane’s work expected him to teeter over the knife’s edge of good taste. This is the dude who created “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “The Cleveland Show.” Someone with more power than MacFarlane even gave him the opportunity to hit The Big Screen, and Seth gave us “Ted.”
And last night was just as fresh. I don’t want waving peace signs. I don’t want an explicit request for greater diversity in the industry that purports to show us, bigger than life and in HD. I don’t want seductive yet vaguely paternalistic expressions of respect for women actresses. You want that? Dig in the crates. You’re gonna have to go back in the Academy Awards days to get that display of political correctness.
Me? I want exactly what I got last night. I want a 9-year-old black girl flexing muscles for millions of other 9-year-old black girls to see. (Beast it, Quvenzhane!) I want Robin Roberts bald and beautiful. I want Octavia Spencer just a little bit cocky on the mic. And I want a host willing to push buttons that will keep the audience awake, engaged, clicking about more than smoky eyes and body size.
Give me whole songs that are questionable, even outrageous, almost offensive. Comedy is the brutal art. It is supposed to hurt. So give me more of Oscar Night 2013, please.
And all the talk the day after.
So let’s offer a counter-narrative to all the negative talk about last night’s show. What does The Boob Song really mean? That Seth McFarland is a sexist, well, boob? Or, does the lyrical accuracy of Seth’s song and dance mean that we need to examine this truth - that Hollywood demands full-frontal female nudity? That nearly every actress that town produces, each a woman of incredible talent, must, at some point in her career, even sometimes at the pinnacle of her career, reveal her breasts? That Hollywood hates its women? That America hates its women?
I dug how Seth walked the racial line, too. The Denzel-played-in-the-Nutty-Professor-movies joke? That could have been a line from the seminal, ground-breaking, biting satire of Black life in Tinsel Town, Hollywood Shuffle. Yeah, that was a good line. Give it to me.
Give me McFarland’s perfectly-pitched awkwardness with just a pinch of diffidence. And with all that, give me the best news of all: At least this year, the show was memorable.
A few years after Hollywood Shuffle was produced, Phife Dog swore he’d “Never let a statue tell me how nice I am” on A Tribe Called Qwest’s “Award Tour”. In the defiant spirit of Golden Age hip hop, in celebration of the sheer numbers of black folk in the house last night, and (finally!) pushing past the Django juggernaut, here is a list of awards and shouts for folk from the red carpet to the last category called:
- Shout to Roshumba Williams for saying Quvenzhane Wallis’s name and not calling her “Little Q” on the red carpet.
- Tie for Best Keep it Real Moment: Kerry Washington on the red carpet for joking about how she poured a little out for the brothers upstate, and Queen Latifah just before the show for throwing up real hood peace signs and a smile.
- Two extra, unrelated shouts to The Queen: One for rescuing Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger last night, and another for never insisting that we call her Miss Dana Owens. I see you, East Orange!
- Shout to Quevenzhane’s mamma for dressing that child like a child should be dressed
- Shout to Octavia Spencer for working that dress: Make Way for the Big Girrrrls!
- Shout to Chris Tucker. You still look good, Smokey.
- Award for Most Beautiful Human Who Ever Played an Alien who Kinda Sometimes Looks like an Alien in a Really Beautiful Way: Zoe Saldana.
- Award for Best Sisters in Spirit Moment: Halle Berry and Robin Roberts. Said Halle: “So glad you’re here.” Said Robin: “I am. I am here.”
- Shout to Adele for channeling her Inner Black Girl on the red carpet (“I feel like Beyonce.”) and on stage (“And my man. I love you, baby!”)
- Awkward Award: Jamie Foxx. Don’t hit on the Destiny’s Child interviewing you while your college-aged daughter is standing right next to you, brother.
- Award for Best Re-Enactment of a Film using a Brown Sock Puppet: Seth McFarland
- Award for Best Crushed Velvet: Sam L.
- Shout to Shirley Bassey. I didn’t need to Google you to know you belong to us, sis.
- Award for Biggest Surprise of the Night: Michelle O.
- Award for the Biggest Winner who Lost Last Night: Quvenzhane takes it again. She the man.
- Award for Turn. Ing. It. Out.: J Hud. Say, word. Cuz I ain’t goin nowhere neither, chile.
Eisa Nefertari Ulen is author of the novel Crystelle Mourning. She lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn.
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