This year is bearing witness to a welcome shift in award show performances and speeches, with many celebrities and artists using their brief minutes on stage to create powerful commentary on social issues plaguing the most marginalized.
The 2018 Oscars was no different. In a powerful performance Sunday night, singer Andra Day and rapper Common used their moment to shine the light on 10 activists who have made it their life’s work to stand up for something. Performing their Academy Award-nominated single “Stand Up For Something” from the 2017 film Marshall, Day and Common created an appropriate and powerful moment that married art with activism.
“I am truly honored to share the stage with such powerful people,” Day said via a press release. “People who work, sacrifice and have fought through their personal pain to make the world a better place. Everyone’s contribution is important, but Common and I wanted to show people who are working everyday in the trenches to transform perceptions, circumstances, legislation, social and political landscapes, and bring hope to the hopeless.”
One of those activists was Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and author of the new book, When They Call You A Terrorist.
“Tonight, the Black Lives Matter Global network took to the Oscar stage to remind the country and the world that Black folks are still fighting for our lives and dignity,” Cullors told ESSENCE. “We want folks to remember that there has been a long legacy of Black people on the frontlines of changing the very fabric of America. We are because we need to challenge this current administrations consistent decimation of marginalized communities. Black Lives Matter and our 40 chapters across the globe are on the frontlines of shaping a new reality for Black people. Rise with us.”
Other familiar faces included #MeToo creator Tarana Burke, author and trans activist Janet Mock, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Cecile Richards, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, Alice Brown Otter from Standing Rock Youth Council, ThinkFoodGroup’s José Andrés, author Bana Alabed, Nicole Hockley of Sandy Hook Promise and Dolores Huerta of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
“If it’s one thing I learned from being a part of Selma is that an activist is someone who lives their life for what they believe in and works for that cause everyday,” Common said. “The activists we asked to join us on stage are people who have dedicated their lives to making the world better. For some because their own personal experiences have driven them to this place, and some because they’ve seen the injustices going on in the world and felt they had to take action.”
According to Variety, Day and Common even contacted each activists themselves to create a call of action through art.