Despite considerable doubt from the public, February — also Black History Month — saw favorable diversity among Grammy and Academy Award winners.
This season’s awards ceremonies were under fire before the actual events had even occurred. Hosted by Alicia Keys on Feb. 10, the 61st Annual Grammy Awards was not without tension as the show has been notoriously criticized for alienating hip-hop and rap artists, genres that typically don’t win in the top categories.
As a result, some black artists including Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar and Drake declined opportunities to perform at the event. Gambino didn’t even attend.
Fans were quick to take to Twitter and call out the music organization’s questionable record with artists of color and their lack of representation.
Boycotting the event has become popular in recent years with one user calling the Academy “racist and unfair to hip-hop” artists and others not watching because their taste in music doesn’t “get much recognition in the important categories.”
“The Grammys, in itself, should be a showcase of legitimate music in the various genres,” Rendell Drew, professor of political science at Orange Coast College and musician said. “Hip-hop is controversial, as far as lyrics. It puts down women and uses a whole lot of profanity. It sends a certain negative image and maybe the Grammys doesn’t cater to that style. A lot of people don’t consider it to be genuine music.”
Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich and Recording Academy President Neil Portnow have both denied believing the show has a “race problem.”
However, the night produced winners in the “top-prize” categories that satisfied racial and gender diversity.
Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” won Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Music Video and Best Rap/Sung Performance.
He and country star Kacey Musgraves tied for most wins, each receiving four awards.
Kendrick Lamar received eight nominations — the most for the evening — followed by Drake with seven and a win for Best Rap Song with “God’s Plan.”
And in a historic first, Cardi B became the first woman to ever win Best Rap Album for her record “Invasion of Privacy.”
Two weeks later on Feb. 24, the 91st Academy Awards were held with its own set of controversies and past damning disapprovals.
The Academy Awards is no stranger to discrimination allegations, receiving adverse reactions in the past for lack of diversity among nominees and recipients.
However, among the evening’s winners were African-American stars Mahershala Ali and Regina King in the Best Supporting Actor/Actress categories for his work in “Green Book” and her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
Director Spike Lee took home the Best Adapted Screenplay award for “BlacKkKlansman.” “Green Book” won Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler also made history for their work on “Black Panther,” becoming the first African Americans to win for costume design and production design.
When the Academy announced plans to include a new category to celebrate Popular Film, the proposal was met with staunch backlash.
Some argued that it was “demeaning” to big blockbuster hits, and would potentially diminish chances for Best Picture nominations. Fans of Marvel’s “Black Panther” also expressed concern with the film’s potential to win the Best Picture category if Popular Film were to be included, several noting the inconvenient timing of the proposal.
Popular Film was ultimately not included in the award show and “Black Panther” left well decorated with wins in three categories.