Common and John Legend at the 2015 Academy Awards (Photo by Kevin Winter)
Much was made about the Oscars last Sunday. The hash tag #OscarsSoWhite reflected the absence of color among some of the biggest categories of the night. But during the awards, several stars used their moment of recognition to lift up social issues that are being discussed, debated and decided by policymakers in Washington, DC and in state legislatures across the country.
Graham Moore, the writer of The Imitation Game, tackled the discrimination against gays, being different and mental illness, while Patricia Arquette, who won her Best Supporting Actress award for her role in Boyhood, tackled women’s rights and pay equity. While accepting the award for Best Film, Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu spoke about allowing immigrants to live in the United States with dignity.
During the acceptance speeches for Best Original Song, rapper Common (pictured left) focused his comments on civil disobedience and the power of everyday people to create change. John Legend (pictured right) went more political discussing the issues of voter suppression and the broken state that the Voting Rights Act is in after the 2013 Supreme Court decision removing a key provision of the law, as well as focusing on the overincarceration of black males in America.
Since that night, all of the speeches have been dissected and contemplated in depth and on the surface. Whether you agree or disagree with the comments, whether you heard yourself represented in the comments or whether you felt that the messages were not deep enough or didn’t go far enough, no one can deny the power that the speakers brought to these issues. Regardless of your position on the issue, more likely than not, you talked about it, read about it, heard about it or thought about it.
While many of us may never stand on a stage collecting an Oscar for a great performance in film, each of us has our own unique platform. We can all use our platforms to promote issues that matter most to us. Whether you are on Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook—even if you still have a MySpace account, we all have a way to engage the people in our network.
Even if you have avoided the social media snare all together, your platform still exists. If you talk to people at church, at your job or in your neighborhood, you are still able to spread messages of importance. As we reflect on the many issues that are happening in our communities from voting rights to education to policing reform, we need to leverage our own power and authority and use our voice to create change for the greater good.
Janaye Ingram is the Acting National Executive Director of National Action Network (NAN) and oversees NAN’s action agenda and legislative advocacy work under Founder and President, Rev. Al Sharpton. In this role, Ingram focuses on issues such as education, criminal justice, housing, technology, economic development and healthcare, among others.