Halle Berry Delivers Moving Speech During Celebration of Black Cinema: ‘Stop Letting Awards Measure Our Worth’
The Critics Choice Association held its fourth annual Celebration of Black Cinema and Television during an in-person ceremony on Monday evening at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel, which will be the new home to the Critics Choice Awards on Jan. 9. Hosted by Emmy winner Niecy Nash, some of the honorees included Jennifer Hudson from “Respect” (MGM/United Artists Releasing), Ruth Negga from “Passing” (Netflix) and the cast of Jeymes Samuel’s “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix).
Oscar and Emmy-winning actress Taraji P. Henson presented Halle Berry with the career achievement award to close the evening out, with Berry delivering a tearful and moving speech. “When I started 30 years ago, there weren’t rooms like this where I could go and feel affirmed or esteemed,” she said. “I was often alone. I was one of the few Black people in a room, searching to find my value, searching to find my worth.”
It’s been 20 years since Berry won the Academy Award for best actress for “Monster’s Ball” (2001). Referring to the questions she’s been receiving about still being the only Black woman ever to win the award, she said, “I feel heartbroken that no one stands next to me. I also want to say, we should not covet awards. Awards do not define our worth, our talent. So if no one ever stands fucking beside me, it doesn’t mean that we are not worthy and are not doing the work. It doesn’t mean that you’re not excellent. “Let’s stop coveting that and letting that be the measure of our worth and our success. I hope soon that someone is standing there but if you’re not, know that you’re worth it.”
The director of Netflix’s “ Bruised ” also shouted out her fellow honorees in the awards race, including Hudson and Tessa Thompson (“Passing”), telling them that they are inspiring many little Black girls.
Danielle Brooks of Lifetime’s “Mahalia” spoke of body positivity during her moments on stage, which was later referenced during Deon Cole’s hilarious time at the mic for the cast of “The Harder They Fall.” “A Black Girl Sketch Show” creator and star Robin Thede also came with jokes. On the red carpet, Variety asked her if she would have a role in her upcoming Amazon comedy, “Killing It,” which she describes as “Shaun of the Dead” meets “Girls Trip.” She answered, “that would be fun.”
Oscar winner Barry Jenkins picked up the television director prize for “The Underground Railroad,” and used it as an opportunity to highlight his friendship with longtime editor Joi McMillon, who presented it to him. “I asked her to present this to me because I wanted you all to meet her,” Jenkins said. “The show was nominated for seven Emmys and she wasn’t, despite editing half of the episodes.”
Some stars couldn’t make the ceremony due to work obligations, including “King Richard” star Will Smith, who is still shooting the film “Emancipation” in Louisana from director Antoine Fuqua, who was also honored for his film “The Guilty.”
Ava DuVernay was the inaugural recipient of the Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer award, presented by his son Mario van Peebles. At the ceremony, all the guests had copies of the Criterion box set of “Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films” on their chairs.