Oscars can make it right

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Months after the fact, it still bothers me that the first time an all-black cast is awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, the occasion turned into a fiasco after La La Land was erroneously announced the winner.

Moonlight, a moving film that traces a young, gay African-American’s sexual wakening that challenges his received notion of what masculinity should look like, deserves better.

I have worked with youth in the LGBT community, and as I watched the Oscars blunder unfold, my disbelief rapidly turned into disappointment and anger at the missed opportunity for youth who often look to the arts as a haven and inspiration.

One could say that Warren Beatty, a previous Oscars winner himself, could have ad-libbed and saved the night upon realizing he had the wrong envelope. This did not happen. Instead, Beatty took precious time away from the Moonlight cast who, like other winners, had an opportunity to deliver an uplifting, compelling message from a stage that millions around the world tuned in to watch. It’s a pity that time wasn’t added to give the breakthrough movie’s cast their night in the spotlight.

I have wondered what was in their speeches. Did they want to dedicate the Oscar to black youth struggling with their sexuality – to say there is hope and love for them and they don’t need to be ashamed or hide? When, in communities and countries around the world, LGBT youth are harassed, thrown out of their homes, beaten or killed, I can’t help but feel that a rare educational and culturally defining moment was lost that night.

Is it too much of a stretch to compare this experience with those of many African-Americans whose hard work is taken for granted or goes unrecognized? One only needs to look at the movie Hidden Figures to answer that question.

I believe the Academy has an obligation, and more than enough time, to come up with a way to right the wrong that was committed at the 2017 awards.

Here’s a possible remedy. Why not start the 2018 ceremony with a re-presentation of the 2017 best picture award to the Moonlight cast who can then give the speeches they had planned to make? Imagine two gay youth of colour presenting the Oscar, talking about their struggles, and sharing how movies have helped them heal and have hope for the future.

The arts have always been a moral compass and lens through which to share the stories and lives of people who have made a difference. They give people the freedom to express, believe, escape, and renew their hope for a better life.

The youth of the world, including LGBT youth, are our future and they matter. Make it right for them.

Sandra Weames, British Columbia, Canada