I am a cinephile, so there is no greater thrill than covering the Oscars.

The week leading to the big show was full of buzz about Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” and the breakout performance of ingenue Lupita Nyong’o. Both would go on to win: “12 Years a Slave” won for Best Motion Picture of the Year; John Ridley won for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress.

In the press room, I sat front and center with my seat in direct view of the stage mike.

As the wins for “12 Years a Slave” racked up, the press room went wild with congratulatory banter. The Oscars spirit was fueled in no small part by Jared Leto allowing me and other journalists to pass around the heavy trophy.

“Does anyone want to try it out for size?” shouted Leto. “I think I am the first person to ever give their Oscar away for an orgy in the press room.”

By the time Nyong’o arrived, she had regained her composure and exhibited such a serene spirit that the world “regal” could have easily been stenciled above her head.

Holding our numbered placards aloft, the press corps lined up to ask the svelte Kenyan winner the logical question, “How does it feel?”

Nyong’o responded, “It’s an honor to be a part of this journey. Steve McQueen has honored a people that has been unsung. I feel that their spirits have been honored.”

In a deep, reflective tone, she further shared, “After I got this young man [referring to her heavy Oscar award], I had a moment with my father; he hugged me and he said, ‘Thank you.’”

Backstage, the very tall winner Ridley gave credit to Solomon Northup’s book, which was written in 1853 and was reviewed by Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.

“The praise goes to Solomon because it’s his words and his life,” Ridley said. “He was an extraordinary individual, as are most people who have survived something like that.”

Ridley is the second Black person to win Best Adapted Screenplay, and the combination of that with the fact that McQueen won for Best Picture makes it a unique footnote in the history of the Oscars.

“It’s a thought,” said Ridley. “My mother is a teacher and was very big into education, and I think of Solomon and his time—when to write his memoir in parts of the country was a death sentence. So to be able to stand here and adapt that—I’m very proud, I’m very humbled, and I’m very hopeful for the future.”

Accepting the coveted Best Motion Picture honor were producers Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, McQueen and Anthony Katagas.

Gracious, sincere and intelligent love poured from the lips of the five producers. As I engaged my ears to search for pearls, I locked eyes firmly on the artists, meeting their eyes often.

“Thank you all,” Pitt began. “Thank you for this incredible honor you bestowed on our film tonight. I know I speak for everyone standing behind me that it has been an absolute privilege to work on Solomon’s story. And we all get to stand up here tonight because of one man who brought us all together to tell that story. And that is the indomitable Mr. Steve McQueen.”

Taking the reins firmly, McQueen interjected, “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”

I asked a final question and addressed it to the producers assembled:

“As artists, what do you do to keep finding stories that deal with the humanity that we all share and also keep people of color learning and working, not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera? How do we keep that momentum going and continue what you guys are striving for?”

Pitt smiled at me and tuned to his producing partner Katagas to answer the question.

“I would just say that I think ‘12 Years’ has had a wonderful reception around the world, not just in the United States, but in the rest of the world. And I think that that’s a great development, because it suggests that the universality of the story is what’s important,” said Katagas.

“I think it’s starting to kind of break down some of these ideological concepts of what is a domestic story, what is an international story, which kind of story is for what audience. And hopefully, this movie is not just an end in itself, but it’s a means to the larger end that you’re talking about.

You know, you work for a venerable newspaper that’s been doing that kind of work for years, and we hope that we can be part of that trend for years to come as well.”

Later that evening, I had a conversation with McQueen, with his Oscar firmly in his hand. We spoke about diversity above and below the line.

He said, “The Black newspapers are important. I am grateful that they supported this film from the beginning and have continued. Keeping the printed word afloat is important. Sharing our common humanity and sharing those stories in all ways is how we keep this glorious momentum moving positively forward.”

As we parted for the evening, McQueen’s limo gliding down Hollywood Boulevard right on cue, he turned with a smile and said loudly, “Thank you, and please thank your newspaper.”