Whenever I hear someone reference The Wizard of Oz as one of their favorite movies as a child, I pay attention. This particular reference, however, was something I had never considered and which really made me think about “Oz” in a new way. It still inspired hope and to face ones fears. In her speech, Lena Waithe said that “It’s interesting how things you hear as a kid take on a whole new meaning as an adult.”
Read on about what she and others had to say at the Essence Magazine’s annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards. These women were rightly honored for their contributions to the betterment of all women. Each one had something important to share in their journeys that got them here. Lena’s gayness, Tiffany’s foster care, Danai’s sisterhoods and Tessa’s gender equality are keeping the conversations moving forward.
Have these women inspired you? Be Strong! Women raising each other up!
Emmy-winner Lena Waithe, Girls Trip breakout Tiffany Haddish, Black Panther and The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, and Thor Ragnarok actress Tessa Thompson were honored at Essence Magazine’s annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards, which took place Thursday afternoon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
On Thursday, speaking before such luminaries as Bassett, Ava DuVernay and Lupita Nyong’o, Lena Waithe said they must be beacons for a younger generation and made a moving reference to one of her favorite movies as a child, The Wizard of Oz.
“There’s this moment in the movie when Dorothy’s presence interrupts the peace of Oz, which forces all the Munchkins to run and hide. So Glinda the Good Witch tells them to stop hiding. She tells them to come out: ‘Come out, wherever you are. Don’t be afraid.’ It’s interesting how things you hear as a kid take on a whole new meaning as an adult. Her words still ring loudly in my ears, especially today,” she said.
“So I ask those of you that are still hiding to come out. Come out, wherever you are, please don’t be afraid. And I hope that you know that I’m here to hold your hand whenever you decide to jump into this wonderful pool of people who refuse to be hidden. The water is warm.”
Waithe received the first Black Women in Hollywood Ford Vanguard Award and got a shout-out from her Ready Player One director Steven Spielberg via highlight video. As a proud gay black woman and stark LGBTQ advocate, Waithe used her platform to encourage those who are still hiding to come out.
“So many of our black, gay, lesbian, queer, and trans foremothers and forefather, those that never felt comfortable by their gender, had to hide,” she said during her impassioned speech. “Now look at us, still hiding. Hiding because we don’t want to lose an endorsement deal. Hiding because we want to be normal. Hiding because we don’t want to make white folks uneasy. But most of all hiding because we don’t want to make our own people feel uncomfortable. Being born gay, black and female is not a revolutionary act. Being proud to be a gay black female is.”
Gurira, who was greeted on stage by her Black Panther co-star Lupita Nyong’o, underscored the power of sisterhood. “We’ve found the source of our power. The world and it’s various oppressors against those like us wanted to tell us that we as women, we don’t do well together. That we are competitive, and have cat fights, petty disagreements, and can’t get things done if we try. It tells us to compete, that there’s never enough and that we’re easily replaceable,” she said. “But we know that not to be true. A real sister will we know better. She knows that her most profound strength, her power, her magic, is often actualized, nourished, and recognized by none other than another sister.”
Furthermore, a boisterous and elated Tiffany Haddish had the crowd in stitches sharing stories of her early days in acting as well as growing up as a foster youth. “I’m glad I had those experiences because now when I perform I can come from a place of reality. I know how different people live. Everybody is crazy. It doesn’t matter what your nationality is.”
Thompson, an early initiator in the #TimesUp movement, expressed her optimism about the future of the industry. “I think we’re living inside more than just a moment. I hope finally our voices can be heard…We know all too well that any conversation about gender equality that does not mention the intersection of race is not the truth. Any solution orchestrated to address the struggles we face as black women and women of color must be crafted by us not just with us in mind.”