Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Oscars 2022: Will Smith, Ariana DeBose, Questlove Win Big—but You Know What We're Really Going to Talk About

The King Richard star stole the show, but it wasn't for winning.

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 Will Smith accepts the Oscar® for Actor in a Leading Role during the live ABC telecast of the 94th Oscars® at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA, on Sunday, March 27, 2022.
Will Smith accepts the Oscar® for Actor in a Leading Role during the live ABC telecast of the 94th Oscars® at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA, on Sunday, March 27, 2022.
Photo: Kyusung Gong / A.M.P.A.S.

Before we get to the reason you’re here, and the moment you really want to read about, let’s recap the highlights of the 94th Academy Awards.

As we reported at The Root, Beyonce opened the show with an epic performance of her Best Original Song nominee “Be Alive.” Venus and Serena introduced Queen Bey’s earth-shaking rendition of her anthem from the Compton tennis courts where the superstar sisters got their start. The performance was both empowering and inspiring, as she once again celebrated Black excellence. The intro even included an orchestral sample of the Dr. Dre classic “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” Let’s be honest, she should have won. No offense Billie Eilish, I’m a fan, but it’s Beyonce.

We then met hosts Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and Amy Schumer, who got hyped up courtesy of DJ Khaled. The trio had the impossible task of moving the three and a half hour show along, particularly after things got extremely awkward later in the evening. Other than a couple of misses, most of their jokes hit the mark, with the women displaying an unexpected chemistry.

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After sweeping through awards season with her dynamic performance as Anita in West Side Story, Ariana DeBose took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, exclaiming “dreams come true.” She thanked her family, director Steven Spielberg and her co-star the legendary Rita Moreno. DeBose makes history as the first queer woman of color to win an Oscar. She acknowledged the importance of this moment in her acceptance speech.

“Imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford Focus. Look into her eyes. You see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro‑Latina, who found her strength in life through art,” DeBose said. “And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate.”

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A great surprise of the night was The Queen of Basketball taking home the trophy for Documentary Short Subject. The film follows the life of women’s basketball legend Lusia Harris. After winning the Oscar, director Ben Proudfoot spoke to The Root about whether his short will inspire other stories about the history of women’s sports and the role Black women play in that history.

“I hope so. Lucy is a representative of generations of women, and particularly women of color whose story has not been told, whose stories have not been celebrated,” Proudfoot said. “I think people are starting to get wise to the fact that there’s a whole lot of people and a whole lot of stories that they don’t know. Not that it didn’t happen. It is that those stories haven’t been told. So, yes, I hope many more films get made about the history of women athletes and women athletes of color. And I hope that they are short documentaries, and I hope that they’re free on YouTube so everybody can see the story.”

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Another big winner Sunday night was Summer of Soul. Questlove, who directed this masterpiece of Black history, was the perfect person to bring this lost part of our culture to the masses. Chronicling the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) won for Best Documentary Feature. The Roots drummer, who attended with his mom, was so emotional and overwhelmed he almost didn’t get through his speech. Questlove spoke with The Root after his win and discussed how important a film that celebrates Black history and culture in this way is, as our history and culture is literally under attack.

“We’ve always maintained that even though most will see this as a Black history film, we also need to start reframing that Black history is American history and to let people know that we had a hand in building this place. And the thing that I really want people to leave with—because there’s people that are going to be curious about this film and see it, and there’s some teachable moments,” he said.

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And now let’s get into the Will Smith of it all.

When Chris Rock came on stage to present Documentary Feature, he made several jokes about the famous faces in the audience, including a jab about Jada’s hair or lack thereof. Will got out of his seat, went on stage and slapped Rock. Upon returning to his seat, he yelled at the comedian to “keep his wife’s name out of his fucking mouth.”

From that moment on, the entire tone of the show changed. The awkwardness wasn’t over, as a few minutes later, Will won Best Actor for playing Richard Williams in King Richard. He used his acceptance speech to apologize to The Academy (but not Chris Rock) and talked about how Richard Williams was a defender of his family.

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“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world,” he said. “Making this film I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who was one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses that played Venus and Serena. I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.”

He continued: “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things. Thank you for this honor. Thank you for this moment. I thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene, the entire Williams. I hope the Academy invites me back.”

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Will had his best and worst career moments in a matter of minutes.

Just so we can end on something a little happier, who knew Megan Thee Stallion was in the Encanto hive? Of course, who isn’t at this point? The “Savage” rapper made a surprise appearance during the cast’s performance of breakout hit “Bruno,” shocking even co-director Byron Howard who said to the press, “Different people have found their way into the story and into our songs, especially, different people doing their own take. So seeing Megan Thee Stallion do it is mind-blowing.”