The Caribbean beamed with pride as descendants from the region took the stage at the Oscars on Sunday night. Three of the most notable names each had a moment on stage, one of them being the biggest moment of the night. So who rep we?
First off,with her baby bump in a Jason Wu gown accessorized with Jennifer Meyer jewelry and Christian Louboutin shoes was Scandal star Kerry Washington. The star, whose character on the hit ABC show runs a crisis PR firm, is actually related through her mother to a real life former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell. As for the Caribbean connection, Powell and Washington’s mother are both of Jamaican heritage.
Another proud moment came when Sidney Poitier, the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor took the stage as a presenter. Poitier’s mother gave birth to him in Florida during the contract era when many islanders sought jobs in agriculture. Shortly after, they returned to their homeland, The Bahamas. In addition to being considered one of the nation’s most treasured sons with a bridge named in his honor, Poitier is formally addressed by Bahamians as Sir Sidney, as he is the country’s Ambassador to Japan. His illustrious career has inspired many over the years and 22 years after he won the Oscar for Lilies of The Field, he was given an Honorary Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
And if you want to include a bonus Bahamian at this year’s Academy Awards, consider Sir Sidney’s escort for the evening, his daughter Sydney Tamia Poitier. The father directed and costarred with his daughter in Free Of Eden but the younger Poitier has several series under her belt including Veronica Mars, Joan of Arcadia, Knight Rider, Abby and First Years. She was also the Bahamas International Film Festival’s Shining Star Award recipient for 2012.
While Washington and Poitier’s appearances were worthy of praise, the evening belonged to London-born Steve McQueen (not to be confused with the late American actor with the same name). As a boy, he was bullied for dyslexia, faced racism and was placed in a class because he was “better suited” for manual labor. Despite that, he found a love for making films as an adult. McQueen made history at the 2014 Oscars when 12 Years A Slave snagged the Best Picture award, becoming the first film directed by a Black person to receive the honor.
“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” he said during his acceptance speech. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup.”
Northup was the free man of color tricked into slavery whose story served as the basis of the film. Another win for the movie came Lupita N’yongo took home the title of Best Supporting Actress, noteworthy as 12 Years A Slave was her first feature film role.
So how does Steve McQueen tie into the West Indies? McQueen has proudly stated his Caribbean links many times – his mother was born in Trinidad and his father is from Grenada.