I didn’t watch the Oscars — I’m more interested in the awards than the ceremony — but I was moved nonetheless by Common’s and Andra Day’s performance of “Stand Up For Something” from Marshall at the 90th Annual Academy Awards, which I first read about and later watched.
This song, which was written by Lonnie Lynn and Diane Warren and nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy, challenges listeners to have the courage of their convictions, and it appears in a movie about a young Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. For their Oscar performance, Common and Day created the spotlight design and contacted to join them on stage.
In doing so, Common and Day insisted upon sharing the stage, and using this attention to highlight, people who deserve to be recognized not for their abilities but their actions —
- eight-year-old Syrian Refugee Bana Alabed who wrote a book for peace
- co-founder of Black Lives Matter Patrisse Cullors
- co-founder of United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta
- Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards
- chef José Andrés who flew to Puerto Rico to feed Hurricane Maria victims
- Nicole Hockley who is managing director of an organization against gun violence and the mother of a Sandy Hook victim
- Janet Mock who is the first trans woman of color to write and produce for television
- #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke
- fourteen-year-old Alice Brown Otter who ran 1,519 miles from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to Washington, D.C. to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline
- Bryan Stevenson who directs the Equal Justice Initiative that works for people who are unfairly sentenced or wrongly convicted
They could have done more if they had started the song and then stepped aside, giving these activists the entire stage, but at least they were willing to share their spotlight, which honored the efforts of these activists and individuals to make this world a better place.
Such a statement challenges the rest of us to find moments in our lives when we can display the courage of our own convictions, as well as inspires us to recognize those who have done so.