BY: ISAIAH WASHINGTON
The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards delivered history-making wins and spellbinding orations on Sept. 22. Two of the most notable wins belong to Billy Porter and Jharrel Jerome as they serve as indicators of Hollywood's dilating inclusivity. As the two ascended the stairs respectively, the stage was morphed into a platform for them to speak their truth.
Jharrel Jerome mounted the stage to claim the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie. The audience heavily applauded him, which then led to a standing ovation, recognizing him for his evocation of Korey Wise in the Netflix miniseries When They See Us. The Ava DuVernay directed show chronicles the 1989 Central Park jogger case as a means to humanize the Exonerated Five. Exclaiming "Raymond, Yusef, Antron, Kevin, and King Korey Wise, thank you so much, it's an honor, it's a blessing," Jerome allocated his award to the wrongfully convicted men.
Jharrel Jerome is the first Afro-Latino to win an Emmy for Acting. The recognition of actors of color is correlated to the availability of roles for actors of color. Ava DuVernay, particularly, is a pioneer of conceptualizing and actualizing roles that not only exist for marginalized people, but also allow them to display the whole spectrum of emotions. This suggests that diversity is needed in front of the camera as well as behind it.
Billy Porter's portrayal of Pray Tell in FX drama Pose garnered him the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In the series, Porter depicts a grief-stricken man, who has seen the AIDS epidemic purge the lives of his loved ones, finding solace in his role as a father figure and emcee for New York's underground ballroom culture. His achievement makes him the first openly gay black man to receive a trophy in the category. But, as Porter decreed, the most cardinal category that evening was "love, y'all."
Borrowing the words of James Baldwin, Porter shared, "It took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself, and halfway believed, before I could walk around this earth like I had the right to be here." He began preaching to his audience who was overcome with awe, extrapolating Baldwin's words â€” "I have the right, you have the right â€• we all have the right!"
Porter implored the viewership to never "stop telling the truth." His long-standing career is defined by him manifesting that very same maxim. The Broadway performer and Hollywood actor only needs an Oscar to complete the menagerie of an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner.
While Porter and Jerome are the "firsts," they shouldn't be the onlies for much longer. The coals fueling diversity momentum must be perpetually incendiary for progress to exist on a continuum.