A new decade brings new hope—and we hope Hollywood gets on board and stays there as it relates to diversity and inclusion. Critics wag their fingers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences but when you get down to brass tacks, and we do, it’s the white men that run Hollywood who keep pushing Black and Brown people back. It’s shameful. As liberal and hip as Hollywood might want to think they are—they are not—it feels like a committee of the good ol’ boys wearing their Republican buttons while waving their “Make America Great Again” red caps at anything that does not fit their division-driven agenda. 

When it comes to diversity and inclusion the Academy has listened and has made changes and they will keep listening and keep making changes. Yes, sure, making movies has its political side, I grant you that, but it’s really about telling stories. Good stories, and I choose to believe it is the spirit of these storytellers that will keep the Academy and its members moving toward consistent and better representation.

Julia Reichert who won Best Documentary Feature for “American Factory,” along with Steven Bognar and Jeff Reichert, put a face on that process in her acceptance speech at the 92nd annual Academy Awards. When asked how women and other non-represented people can get their things made, Oscar winner Julia Reichert offered this:

“Sisterhood, which is another way of saying solidarity, which is another way of saying support to each other. I mean, how did––when I first came to the Oscars in 1977, it was a sea of white men. Just a sea of white men in the press corps, all those photographers. It’s getting better. Now, how did that happen? It’s not by individual women. It’s because we started realizing we got to work together, I believe, right? Right? We got to support each other and not fit into the patriarchy, like, not fit into the boys’ club. So what I would say? We don’t have to do it the way the boys have done it. We can do it the way women want it done, whatever it is, and sisterhood.” 

More proof that sweeping changes are coming? I offer Neon’s “Parasite” win which made history at the 92nd Academy Awards, becoming the first foreign-language film ever to win the best picture Oscar. Directed and co-written by Bong Joon Ho, the film follows a dirt poor South Korean family posing as qualified professionals to gain employment by a wealthy family.

Bong also won best director and best original screenplay and “Parasite” won best international film, for a total of four Academy Awards. 

Backstage with producer Kwak Sin Ae, co-screenwriter Han Jin Won, and translator Sharon Choi, Bong admitted to being odd, adding: “I’m just a very strange person,” and adding, in English, “It’s really f—ing crazy!”

But of course, the night did have a crushing disappointment: it’s no secret that a lot of people wanted Cynthia Erivo to win. She was nominated for Oscars this year in the lead actress and original song categories, for the film “Harriet” which, if she had won, would have secured her an EGOT status. 

The only African Americans to win an Oscar were Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver for Best Short Film (Animated) for “Hair Love.”

Here is what Oscar winners Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver had to share inside the press winner’s room from for the 92nd Academy Awards. This has been edited for clarity and length.  

Q. The first question I want to ask is when you talk about the Oscars, particularly Black stories and how they are honored, there is a huge swathe of films and honorees that have told stories about, you know, slavery and segregation and modern-day forms of Black trauma. And that’s no discredit to those stories because those stories are really important. But I would love for you guys to talk about what it means to you to be standing here as Oscar winners with a story that is so positively about a Black family and particularly Black fatherhood. I’m such a fan of the film.

 A. [Matthew A. Cherry] Yeah you know, for us, you know, this was kind of an opportunity, I think, to put a little bit of positivity in animation. You know, back when we did the Kickstarter campaign back in 2017, there wasn’t a lot of representation in animation. And when I was coming across a lot of these viral videos of dads doing their daughter’s hair, they were just so inherently joyful. Our biggest challenge was just to maintain that joy that made people gravitate towards those videos in the first place. So to be here and doing something like this with Black hair and Black families, it’s just, it’s literally a dream. And I never would have thought in a million years we would win an Oscar for something like this. It’s crazy.

 A. [Karen Rupert Toliver] Yeah, and we hope that the success of this really just shows that those positive images are things that people want to see, and you can have the variety of imagery, you can do those stories that are more dramatic or sort of more sad. But the joyous ones are just as possible and powerful and possible.

 Q: How did the CROWN Act get on your radar? Because this is such a beautiful short film to create, but to make it also have a message that can actually make change in the country I think it is amazing. So tell us about that.

 A. [Matthew A. Cherry] You know, for us, again, representation and animation was really important to us. And the CROWN Act was a real-life component to the message that we were trying to get across with the short film. You know, Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, who was a senator here in California, she authored the bill. And Dove actually backed our Kickstarter campaign. We have a special thanks to them in the credits. And they are a big sponsor of the petition to try to help get it in

different states.

So for us, you know, when you see a story like DeAndre Arnold’s, the young gentleman that was the wrestler that had to cut his locks before the match when something like this comes about where you can actually have the potential to create a real change and stop these stories from happening, you know, it was our pleasure to get a part of it. And, you know, I’m so glad that we were able to actually shout that out on the stage because I think it’s important, and I think if that gets passed, then we won’t have these same stories. You know, it will be a better life for our kids.

Q. “Hair Love” was very impactful for me as these little Black girls got to see themselves in this film. So I want you––I want to give you space to tell the little Black girls and little Black boys who want to be in animation, who want to do animation, what do you have to say to them?

A. [Matthew A. Cherry] You know, this film was for you. You know, all throughout the years, you know, there haven’t been characters in the––specifically in animation that look like you. This film was made for you to see yourself. You know, we have a book that is out in stores as well, and I think the combination of the short and the book has really just been great. We’ve been seeing the real-life change and the impact, you know, kids reading the book in class, you know, seeing the book in Target and saying, that’s me. So it just means the world. And there is space for you in animation, and hopefully, this win will help to propel the next generation of diverse people and people of color into that world.

A. [Karen Rupert Toliver] I’ll just hop on to say Matthew is a storyteller. He came from live-action. He didn’t have an animation background, but he had a story to tell, and that is what animation is like any other medium is just a place to tell a story. So for those little girls or boys, if they have a story to tell, come on. I’m ready for you.

Q. Could you just speak a little bit about why you chose the short film format to convey such a powerful message?

A. [Matthew A. Cherry] You know, for me, animation obviously takes a long time to get a film made, oftentimes four or five years. For me, I’m fairly impatient. And I wanted to do something where we were able to get a story out there a little sooner into the world. It felt urgent because even back in 2017, every week there was a new story, you know, a Black person not being able to wear their hair at work, a young person not being able to wear their hair in school. So it just felt like this was the perfect medium so that it could be able to be consumed in places like schools. It could be online so that anybody could enjoy it. And we were really lucky to have that opportunity to be in theaters in front of “Angry Birds 2.” So yeah.