The 2015 Emmy awards marked a breakthrough for Viola Davis as the first Black female to win Lead Actress in a Drama series.
View Viola Davis‘ speech in Full here:
It was an iconic moment and befitting such, Viola took the opportunity to speak with depth and intelligence about the challenges and successes of women of colour on screen. She moved the audience to tears, giving thanks and pointing to other women of colour who have contributed to the strength and progress of women of colour within the film and television industry. Kerry Washington was among those mentioned.
“You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people, people who have redefined what it is to be beautiful and sexy and black.”
As the women part of this collective, we need to push for this change and move to create the spaces where these roles are created – where diversity is celebrated both in the writing room and on screen.
What I think I liked best about this moment is the level of support and sisterhood exhibited there that night.
While most of us were rooting for Viola Davis and celebrating this amazing achievement and moment in television history, unfortunately, there was one salty soap operaette who caused quite a stir on social media.
It’s unfortunate this story has to be interrupted with anything but praise, but I think it’s important to talk about in order to raise awareness to the racial ignorance many white people exhibit- Nancy Lee Grahn proved herself to be no exception when she went on an All Lives Matter rant in response to Viola talking about racism within Hollywood.
Nancy Grahn did not win an award that night, but she did manage to be trending on twitter later that night for her negative public comments that ranged from undermining Viola’s choice in speech, or more importantly, undermining the importance of speaking about racism by trying to turn the focus away from Black women and their experiences to talk instead about herself and women actors in general. She even questioned the legitimacy of Viola’s message by expressing doubt that Viola has experienced racism. Here’s an example of one of her tweets where she seems to be agitated about the conversation of race- trying to turn the focus back to all women instead of allowing Viola her time to speak to issues affecting the Black community.
See more tweets here:
Twitter responded unfavourably to her tweets with fans coming to the rescue to tell Nancy that they wanted none of what she was bringing. Nancy later tried to “apologize” by citing that she had done a lot for Human Rights and that she would have marched for the Black Lives Matter movement …..and other things that don’t excuse her behaviour.