Nia Long Accepts Award at Critics Choice Association Celebration of Black Cinema

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Marking the the 100th anniversary of the release of legendary black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux’s The Homesteader, the Critics Choice Association’s Celebration of Black Cinema Awards, held in LA on December 2, 2019, honored actress and activist Nia Long, along with Kasi Lemmons, Chewitel Eijofor and Eddie Murphy for their extraordinary career achievements. Introduced by Chaz Ebert, Long’s affecting acceptance speech acknowledged her sources of inspiration and some of the hardships she’s faced. was particularly affecting. Here it is:

I would like to thank the Critics Choice Association for this beautiful celebration and honor.

I would like to thank the late and legendary Oscar Micheaux for being the first African American filmmaker.

100 years later, we are still inspired by The Homesteader.

Thank you Cheryl Boone Isaacs for your friendship and mentorship.

Thank you Chaz Ebert for that beautiful introduction and for your contributions to filmmaking.

I am grateful and thankful to be able to do what I love for the past 30 years. It feels like yesterday when I met John Singleton in a small dark casting room. It was in that moment that my life would forever be changed. John saw something in me, that I had yet to discover. He encouraged my drive, he saw my purpose, my passion and my commitment to storytelling. He saw a young girl who was raw and real and fearless, looking to transcend and find answers and guidance. Thank you John for your friendship, your vision and for being my angel on earth…
And now my angel with God… I will forever be grateful. I recognize and embrace the responsibility that I have keep your vision alive.

The journey of a black actress is beautifully complicated. My journey has been full of joy and heartbreak. I’ve had to standup for myself when it wasn’t popular. I’ve had the audacity to challenge authority and voice strong opinions when I was expected to be pretty and quiet. Just do your job and say what’s on the page. I’ve been paid far less than the men standing next to me… and the women who don’t look like me, when the success in numbers and dollars are pretty close more than most of the time.

I’ve cried behind closed doors moments before action because of my experiences in the hair make-up trailer. Experiences which have, at times, robbed me of my confidence and peace of mind. For years, I’ve moved from set to set with a zip lock filled with make-up that matches my caramel complexion and hot tools to straighten my hair, in fear of walking into a trailer that
wasn’t designed to cater to my beauty needs. Why do I have to wear a wig or a weave because the hair stylist hired to do the job has no idea how to style my natural, beautiful Afro. Or the make-up artist doesn’t know how to mix foundation colors to create the perfect shade of brown for me.

Producers and directors, give your black actresses what they need to succeed. Our day starts with hair, make-up and wardrobe. If your cast is black then hire a qualified black support team instead of labeling us difficult or opinionated. We deserve a pleasant experience as we prepare to create.

I’ve learned the power is saying NO. My no’s are not self serving. My no’s protect the integrity of our artistry and the legendary contributions we’ve made to our industry. My no’s set the standard for the next generation of artists and remind the decision makers that we’ve earned a seat at the table…a table we helped build.

The new generation of fearless black actors, director and producers, who are creating projects to expand our opportunities and presence in film and television, inspire me. I am proud to be a part of a community that celebrates our wins and who remain loyal during challenging times.

My wins are our wins. My challenges have inspired me to work harder, push harder. I’m ok with standing alone in silence when necessary. I’ve learned to trust the moments in the valley before climbing the next mountain.

I’ve got my brain and my boots to continue the climb, to ascend and to manifest all that lives In my heart. Thank you for this honor, this moment, and the abundance of love. I will forever be grateful for your acknowledgment of my body of work. May we all continue to kick ass unapologetically with the spirit of grace, humility and love. Thank you.

– Written and presented by Nia Long for The Celebration of Black Cinema Awards; presented by the Critics Choice Association
The Landmark Annex
Los Angeles, CA
nd Decemember 2019

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