Yours Is Comin’!

April 30,

“Yours is comin”! That’s what one of Daniel Kaluuya’s homies shouted as they celebrated his Oscar win on April 25.

Watching Daniel Kaluuya and his crew, which included the musician Dave and actor Damson Idris gas each other up was a wonderful sight.

The Academy’s failure to give Chadwick Boseman an Oscar (slow claps all ‘round) didn’t dampen the joy I felt when I heard Daniel Kaluuya’s stream of consciousness – and the fact that he won for playing Chairman Fred Hampton — a real-life superhero.

As a long-time fan of the Oscars, I never thought I’d see the day when a regular Black, African, British kid would be up on that stage accepting this coveted award. And I mean NEVER. 

My low expectations didn’t stop me from loving the Oscars back in the day, though. When I was a kid, I’d pretend I was one of the shiny people in shiny outfits in that far away land called Hollywood. I’d watch the dance numbers in awe, wishing I was co-hosting the show, wowing the audience with singing and dancing skills. I never once dreamt of winning an Oscar. Because I believed people like me could never win one.. Black American actors rarely won. And I didn’t see any Black British actors in Hollywood movies. 

In early adulthood, Marianne Jean Baptiste’s 1997 Oscar nomination for her role in ‘Secrets and Lies’ threatened to end my Oscar Award skepticism. When she lost to Juliette Binoche my skepticism returned and settled deep into my bones. I almost gave up on the Oscars completely when Octavia Spencer won her gong for playing Minny Jackson in ‘The Help.’

So, imagine my glee when I learned that my guy Daniel Kaluuya won. “Sis, you gotta watch his speech,” one friend texted me. I didn’t hesitate. As his words flowed like water, crashing – literally – into each other, I laughed so hard my cheeks and stomach ached. All I heard was home. His stream of powerful words and thoughts crashing into each other reminded me of home. Each seemingly disconnected thought, of thanking God, loving himself, thanking Fred Hampton – and his parents, were a balm I didn’t realize I needed. 

Chale! What I really loved was his vulnerability. His speech was random because he was nervous. I don’t think he was going to win on Oscar night. I recognized the disbelief in his eyes. I sense that he knew his talent got him a seat at the table, but he didn’t think he’d be celebrated. That an expectation one has after a life time of being othered by everybody. This is what he told GQ in 2017:

“I’m dark-skinned, bro. When I’m around Black people I’m made to feel ‘other’ because I’m dark-skinned. I’ve had to wrestle with that, with people going, ‘You’re too Black.’ Then I come to America and they say, ‘You’re not Black enough.’ I go to Uganda, I can’t speak the language. In India, I’m Black. In the Black community, I’m dark-skinned. In America, I’m British. Bro!”

But when you stay true to who you are, despite the world’s inability (or refusal) to see you, your power becomes undeniable. You create new paths. And we saw that on Oscar night, when Daniel did the most honest and free thing, by saying what was on his heart. After he was done, he reminded all of us to do better.

That understated, self-deprecating, self-loving honesty is so London. I saw A Black African British kid on the Oscar stage on April 25, and it felt good.

Photo by Sung Jin Cho on Unsplash

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