Chantè Russell, Staff Writer
Posted 12:45 PM EST, Mon., Feb. 27, 2017
To the surprise of many, Beyoncé did not win the Album of the Year for “Lemonade” during the 59th Grammy Awards, Feb. 12. But was it really all that shocking? In the 59 years The Grammys have been around, only eleven Black artists have won Album of The Year (and that’s counting Outkast as two). The last Black artist to win album of the year was Herbie Hancock in 2008. The last Black woman to win Album of The Year was Lauryn Hill in 1999.
Similar problems persist in the Academy Awards. In 2015, 332 new members were added to the Academy to improve diversity and Black actors were nominated in every acting category for the first time ever this year. While this progress was thrilling for many, it still took 89 years of Oscar award shows for this to happen, with at least two years of no Black actors being nominated at all. Despite the talent of all those nominated, it’s hard to imagine this sudden inclusion as anything more than the Academy’s response to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite.
It’s no secret to us that Black creatives in both film and music work hard and produce great stories, but it’s also no secret that their work has to be twice as good as that of any white artist to be considered marketable. Even when films and albums made by Black artists have mainstream popularity and impact, that still doesn’t guarantee an award, and sometimes not even a nomination. These are the issues we’ve been dealing with for decades, which is why we created our own.
However, the mainstream population does not value BET Awards, the NAACP Awards and Soul Train Awards like they do the Academy and Grammy Awards. Artists of every race dream of being awarded by the Academy, and while there is little to no doubt that they still appreciate their awards from Black awards shows, they’re definitely not held to the same esteem. Instead of constantly aspiring for outside approval, we should aspire toward the awards created for us by us.
We’ve been shown time and time again that our talent doesn’t excite or interest anyone but us, and I think we need to accept that. Lack of acknowledgement to our talent does not make it any less great. I’m not saying we should not be happy for Black artists who do get the recognition they deserve, but that can’t be the only time we acknowledge their awards as significant.
Following the Grammys, Solange tweeted “create your own committees, build your own institutions, give your friends awards, award yourself, and be the gold you wanna hold my g’s.”
Although the tweet was later deleted, it still holds an important message. We have our own, it’s time we start valuing that. There are so many Black actors, musicians, filmmakers and writers who are amazing at what they do, but we shouldn’t have to wait for the Academy to tell us that in order to truly believe it.