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The UK's Guardian Asks Why Race Should Still Play A Part In Awards Recognition

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 9, 2012 9:43 AM
3 Comments
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Going through my news feed this morning as usual, and came across THIS article in the UK news magazine The Guardian, titled Do black actors still need the Screen Nation awards?

For the uninitiated, the Screen Nation Awards, which we've covered here on S&A, is also known as the "black BAFTAS" in the UK; the BAFTAS is the UK equivalent of the Oscars. So I suppose you could say then that the Screen Nation Awards are a British equivalent of the Oscars with an emphasis on black British talents.

I considered calling it the UK equivalent of the NAACP Image Awards, but I'm not sure that's a a comparison our friends at Screen Nation would approve of. 

But anyway, you get the pciture.

The article in the Guardian argues that, in short, black Brits talents have come a long way, and have now worked their way into mainstream movie and TV consciousness, and thus an awards show just for black talents that essentially suggests they are separate from the mainstream, may not be necessary anymore, an could in fact be a bad idea.

This year's Screen Nation awards will take place in London on Sunday and feature Harris, Harewood and Clarke among the nominees. Elba was honoured by the event last year for his role in BBC crime drama Luther. British black and minority ethnic actors are making their presence felt more than ever before, both at home and abroad – so why do they still need their own awards shows? Why should race play any part at all in the recognition of talented individuals?

Well, because it does. And we're not quite the post-racial universe that we've been hearing about since Barack Obama was elected. The funny thing is that right before I read the Guardian piece, I watched an RT news report on the UK's (or I believe it was specifically London's) Stop & Search mandate, which sees black and other minority youth routinely harrassed by police officers; the report stated that blacks and other minority youth are 28 times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites. 

But what I'm really confused by is that there seems to be a disconnect between what the Guardian piece suggests (I should note that it was written by a black writer - Tola Onanuga), and what you all will remember we reported over in 2011, and into 2012, on the UK talent drain, as black British actors flocked (and continue to be drawn) to the USA for work, because there isn't much offered or available to them in the UK!

So clearly there's still a lot of work to be done here. And I'm not sure I'd be asking this particular question at this juncture; I think I'd instead by wondering why there's this export of talent from the UK to the US.

Those in the USA will also be familiar with these kinds of conversations about whether black awards shows on this side of the pond are necessary today, and if the fact that there are a few black movie stars, and there are blacks who are consistently working, even though they aren't stars, means that all is well, and these *separatist* initiatives shouldn't exist any longer. 

For example, the now-defunct Black Oscars... rememeber it? I've written about it at least once on S&A.

From around 1982 until 2007, African-American actors, directors, producers and executives held a secret ceremony on the night before Oscar night, to celebrate black performers, calling the event the Black Oscars. Every talent, from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson to Will Smith participated in this event, which was considered a moment for black Hollywood to honor its own. However, in 2007, the "Friends of the Black Oscars," the secretive group that sponsored the event, decided that the Black Oscars had finally become obsolete, thanks in large part to the then recent increases in the presence of black talents in the race for Oscar - Halle BerryDenzel WashingtonForest WhitakerEddie MurphyJennifer HudsonWill Smith and Djimon Hounsou, notably.

Some argued that the event should be brought back.

Although there are numerous other awards shows designed specifically to fete black talents of both screen and TV.

Read the full Guardian piece HERE.

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3 Comments

  • Z Strachan | November 11, 2012 4:30 PMReply

    The award ceremony highlights and awards the best performances of Black British actors and actresses which BAFTA's etc. do not necessarily feature. I just don't see the problem and tired of the same rhetoric that it is not needed. Very clear cut to me. Unfortunately, Screen Nation had to be cancelled this year but hopefully it will continue.

  • Orville | November 11, 2012 4:21 PMReply

    Yes Celia is correct Tambay it isn't just black British actors leaving the UK for work tons of white British actors are leaving England in large numbers. So many of the top actors in Hollywood are actually white British actors such as Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Johnny Lee Miller's on the show Elementary on CBS, Georgia King the lady on the New Normal on NBC television show is actually from Scotland I believe, the list goes on and on. So I think it is the lack of opportunities regardless of race in England for black and white actors in England they probably feel in Hollywood they can make more money and of course get higher profile roles than sticking to the UK film and television market.

  • Celia | November 9, 2012 10:43 AMReply

    While black British actors and actresses have flocked to Hollywood in recent years, so have plenty of their while counterparts. While the British do have a strong and interesting tv and movie industries, Hollywood still has more roles, and more importantly, better paid roles. I honestly don't know enough of the position of black actors in UK to comment on whether they need a separate awards show for themselves but the arguing they do need it since many of them decide to try to make it in Hollywood is based on a fallacy in my opinion.

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