During the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday night, director Travon Free used his acceptance speech to condemn police shootings.
The 35-year-old, along with co-director Martin Desmond Roe, won Best Live Action Short for their drama Two Distant Strangers, a 29-minute film that explores the deaths of black Americans in police encounters.
As he took the stage to accept his award, Free said, “Today, the police will kill three people.”
‘Three people will be killed by the police tomorrow. The police will then kill three people the next day. Since, on average, three people are killed by police in America every day. ‘Every year, about 1,000 people are affected.’
‘Those people tend to be overwhelmingly black,’ he added. I just ask that you not be uninterested. Please don’t ignore our suffering,’ Free is still going on.
Earlier on the red carpet, Free made a political statement by displaying the names of black people killed by police, including Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Rayshard Brooks, and Daunte Wright, on the inside of his blazer.
The show’s star, Free, wasn’t the only one to make a political point.
During her opening monologue, actress Regina King praised Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd.
‘It’s been quite a year, and we’re still smack dab in the middle of it,’ the 50-year-old actress said on stage at the glitzy ceremony in Los Angeles’ Union Station. So many people have died, and we are heartbroken.
‘And, to be frank, if things had gone differently in Minneapolis this past week, I would have switched from heels to marching boots.’
The 170 people in the audience nodded in agreement in response to King’s remarks.
‘Now, I know a lot of you at home want to reach for your remote when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you,’ the actress added. But, as the mother of a black boy, I understand the apprehension that so many people experience, and no amount of celebrity or wealth can change that. ‘Is that all right?’
The audience erupted in cheers, seemingly confirming their approval of King’s remarks.
Over the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in May 2020, a Minneapolis jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree homicide, third-degree murder, and second-degree accidental murder.
Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, and Jamika Wilson, who accepted the Oscar for Best Hair and Makeup, also talked about identity politics.
Neal and Wilson are the first two black women to receive the honor, and when she took the stage, Neal spoke out about breaking down barriers.
‘I’d like to express my gratitude to our forefathers who put in the effort. Who, despite being rejected, never gave up. And I, too, stand here as we smash the glass ceiling with such zeal for the future,’ she said to applause from the audience.
‘Because I can see black trans women, Asian and Latina mothers, and indigenous women standing up here.’ And one day, it won’t be extraordinary or groundbreaking; it’ll just be natural.’
The Academy Awards this year have been dubbed “the most diverse” in history, with a record number of BIPOC nominees (black, indigenous, and people of color).
This year, nine of the 20 acting candidates are people of color, marking the first time in history that the best actor category isn’t dominated by white people.
Steven Yeun (Minari), who is the first Asian American to receive a nomination, Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), who received a posthumous nomination, and Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), who is the first Muslim actor to receive a nomination in the category, are among the nominees in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category.
It’s also the first time that two female directors have been nominated for Best Director, with Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) winning nominations. In the category’s history, only five women have ever been nominated.
Zhao is also the first woman of color to receive a Best Director nomination.
- Travon Free, Regina King: Matt Petit /A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images