Black History Made at 89th Academy Awards Ceremony

Mahershala Ali

Courtesy of NY Daily News and Huffington Post

Black history was made at this year’s Academy Awards.

Mahershala Ali, accepting the best supporting actor trophy on Sunday for his turn in “Moonlight,” became the first Muslim actor to take home an Oscar.

Viola Davis won best supporting actress for her work in the 2016 film “Fences,” and became the first Black woman to win acting awards at the Oscars, the Emmy’s and the Tony’s.

Ali, an Oakland native, closed out his acceptance speech with a shout-out to his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, who spent awards season in her third trimester.

“We just had our daughter four days ago,” Ali said. “So I just want to thank her for being such a soldier through this process and helping really carry me through it all.”

The Oakland native’s breakthrough — coming on the heels of President Trump’s travel ban on seven majority-Muslim nations stayed by a federal appeals court — didn’t go unnoticed on social media.

Ali, who converted to Islam 17 years ago, spoke about faith and persecution while accepting a Screen Actors Guild award last month for “Moonlight.”

“When we get caught up in the minutia, the details that make us all different, there are two ways of seeing that,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person, to see what makes them unique. Or it’s an opportunity to go to war about it. To say that that person’s different than me and I don’t like it, so let’s battle.”

After the ceremony, Ali went on to describe how religion can offer a way to connect to the characters being portrayed.

“As an artist, my job is the same, it’s to tell the truth and try to connect with these characters and these people as honestly and as deeply as possible,” he said. “And so one’s spiritual practice, I don’t necessarily feel like it’s relevant, unless it gives you a way into having that empathy for these people.”

Prior to “Fences,” Viola Davis had won an Emmy in 2015 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her work on “How to Get Away with Murder” and two Tony Awards, first in 2001 for her work in “King Hedley II” and then again in 2010 for her work in the Broadway rendition of “Fences.”

Viola Davis won best supporting actress

In her acceptance speech on Sunday, Davis said, “People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies, exhume those stories, the stories of the people who dreamed.”

She continued, “I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.”

She continued to praise the playwright behind “Fences,” which she described as, “a movie that is about people, and words, and life, and forgiveness, and grace.”


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