The Blackness And Brilliance Of Oprah’s Cecil B. Demille Acceptance Speech
If I’m being honest, The Golden Globes were a bit of a disappointment for me. With the exception of Sterling K. Brown’s speech, Aziz Ansari’s win for “Master of None” and the discussion surrounding #MeToo and #TimesUp, it felt like much more of the status quo. White men winning.
But I’m so glad that I stayed tuned in long enough to watch Oprah accept her Cecil B. Demille honor, the first Black woman to ever do so. As we all know Oprah has made a career out of speaking publicly and passionately; so I knew that she would have something good to say. Still, when her speech was finished and she walked off of the stage, her arm wrapped around Reese Witherspoon, I sat there, staring at the screen, shaking my head, saying Oprah’s name over and over again, followed by the phrase “She did that.”
Check out the best, most brilliant and blackest moments from Oprah’s Golden Globes speech on the following pages.
After spending a good 15 seconds thanking the crowd for their applause, Oprah evoked the image of herself as a little girl in 1964, watching Sidney Poitier, “the most elegant man” she’d ever seen accept an Oscar. She said, ‘His tie was white and, of course, his skin was Black.” Oprah said she’d never seen a Black man be celebrated in that way. Representation…it matters.
She also mentions that as she watched and was inspired by that historic and impactful moment, on the linoleum floor in Milwaukee, Oprah’s mother was walking in the door bone tired from cleaning other people, White people’s houses. What the difference a generation makes. Her trajectory is truly remarkable.
The little Black girls watching at home.
It’s not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first Black woman to be given [the Cecil B. Demille] award. It is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them.
“It is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. ” Oprah didn’t say this, but we all know that was a direct reference to Donald Trump and his penchant for lies, fantasies and falsehoods.
What she knows for sure
Then, Oprah hit us with when one of her patented “What she knows for sure” moments. “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.”
The names we’ll never know
And instead of isolate the conversation to sexual assault and harassment to women in Hollywood, rich, mostly White women, Oprah made it about those whose words don’t make national headlines, whose stories we’ll likely never know. “I want, tonight, to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants. They’re in academia, engineering, and medicine and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They are athletes in the Olympics and they’re soldiers in the military.
Then she evoked what I felt to be the most powerful and poignant part of the speech, the name of Recy Taylor.
“And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.”
Men who choose to listen.
And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’ heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man — every man who chooses to listen.
A new day…
“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.”