Are black people finally getting the recognition they deserve?

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"It's such beauty in black people and it really saddens me when we're not allowed to express that pride in being black," are the words uttered in Solange's Tina Taught Me from her 2016 album, A Seat at the Table. One can't help but notice that there is a beautiful wave of black pride gaining more and more momentum with each award won this month.

It's awards season and black household names have us waving those black pride flags higher than Wiz Khalifa in the recording studio.

...when black people recognize each other’s stories we win in a big way because from black pride stems black excellence.

The likes of Viola Davis, Tracee Ellis Ross, Taraji P. Henson and Mahershala Ali scooping up awards has not only given us reason to celebrate black excellence relentlessly, but it has given black people sitting on the sidelines hope that they too have a chance to get a seat at the table. 

The fact that the black female cast members of Hidden Figures, a biographical drama about African-American woman mathematicians, have already bagged a Screen Actors’ Guild award for ‘outstanding cast in a motion picture’ is something we should have been crying tears of joy over in our lounges many awards ceremonies ago. 

To add to this moment, the Oscar-nominated cast brought Katherine Johnson, who is one the iconic African American NASA scientists the movie is based, on to the stage for a heartfelt standing ovation.

Moments such as these make you appreciate the fact when black people recognise each other’s stories we win in a big way because from black pride stems black excellence. Not to say black people never saw the excellence in each other before, but our soft applause was always lost somewhere in the midst of the loud white cheer. 

There will be naysayers who will opine that movies such as Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Fences haven't earned their success, but maybe that's because it baffles them that for once, actors of colour are not playing slaves in motion pictures created by white Americans – that there came a time when black people became more than just disposable slaves.

Read more: #Colouredexcellence: what Wayde Van Niekerk's gold medal means for us

Making history

When Solange croons “all my niggas in the whole wide world, made this song to make it all y’all’s turn,” you can’t help but sway along and bask in the black glory of finally taking what’s ours. 

Viola Davis' Oscar win last night now means she has become the first black star to have an Emmy and a Tony along with her Oscar award.

As if that didn't make us rejoice enough, Mahershala Ali of Moonlight (yes, the movie with the bittersweet Oscar announcement) became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.

This is literally the first time African Americans won in both their respective categories within the same year. Indeed an Oscar night of many firsts.

Sometimes it feels like black people have to slay dragons and move mountains in order to achieve just one of their goals

Why we think black excellence is a new thing

On the subject of firsts, so often we hear of a person of colour being the first of their kind to achieve something praiseworthy, yet in the greater scheme of things, it is not really that unusual.

The fact that the feat is not unusual does not make it trivial, but makes one think for how long black people have not had access to the means for success. Sometimes it feels like black people have to slay dragons and move mountains in order to achieve just one of their goals.

White excellence doesn't exist because white people have historically always had the keys to opportunity in their hands, so their success comes with very few obstacles to overcome. There is no need to celebrate what is already a daily part of our lives.

Black excellence then is not just the rightful recognition of talent and hard work, but it is an act of overcoming adversity.

Image: Getty Images

Representation matters

This is why celebrated faces like Trevor Noah, Black Coffee, Mahershala Ali and Chance the Rapper are our #blackboypride and our Violas, Tarajis, Lupitas and Bonangs are our #blackgirlmagic.

Should we only have such a small handful of elite black names to reference, though? Are successful black people still that much of an anomaly or are we still just pinching ourselves to see if it’s really for real?

Perhaps it’s the fact that the burden of being a person of colour is still a heavier weight we carry on our shoulders than the gold plated statuettes those who represent us on world stages carry. 

Every black victory is a chance to forget the centuries’ long oppression.

We applaud not only the international title winners, but also the black PhD graduate, the little 12-year-old black girl, who just published a book and the black mom paying her children's school fees with no debt. It can therefore truly be said that black excellence is what happens when black people stop waiting on the table and actually take their rightful seat at it. 

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